12:36 Jul. 13, 2016
Philip Hammond suggests future treaty with EU may require approval of 27 nation states, which could take years
The complexity of the UK's efforts to disentangle itself from the European Union has been made clear by the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, who said the process might take as long as six years to complete and the possibility of signing bilateral trade deals in the interim may be limited.
Hammond was speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday as he came under pressure to explain how the Brexit process might work. An opponent of Brexit, Hammond said during the referendum campaign that the process of leaving the EU might take longer than the second world war, and on Tuesday he did not back track from this assessment.
"The concern is this," he said. "If a future treaty between the UK and the EU 27 is deemed to be a mixed competence, it will have to be ratified by 27 national parliaments. I think I am right in saying the shortest time in which that has been done in any EU treaty is just under four years, and that is after taking into account the time it has taken to negotiate."
Hammond's assessment suggests that the UK might take two years from this winter – assuming that is when article 50 is triggered – to negotiate an exit agreement, and then wait a further four years for the agreement to be ratified.