LONDON: A post-Brexit UK-EU trade deal might take 10 years to finalise and still fail, Britain’s ambassador to the EU has privately told the government. The BBC understands Sir Ivan Rogers warned ministers that the European consensus was that a deal might not be done until the early to mid-2020s. He also cautioned that an agreement could be rejected ultimately by other EU members’ national parliaments. No 10 expressed confidence in reaching a deal to suit the UK and the EU. In October, Sir Ivan, who conducted David Cameron’s negotiation over the UK’s relationship with the EU, advised ministers that the view of the 27 other countries was that a free trade agreement could take as long as a decade. He said that even once concluded, the deal might not survive the process of ratification, which involves every country having to approve the deal in its own parliament.
It is also understood he suggested that the expectation among European leaders was that a free trade deal, rather than continued membership of the single market, was the likely option for the UK after Brexit. Sir Ivan’s private advice contrasts with ministers publicly insisting a deal can be done in the two years allowed by the triggering of Article 50 – the formal start of the process of leaving the EU. Downing Street said it did not recognise the views expressed by the diplomat. Sources have suggested he was relaying other EU members’ views, rather than his own or the British government’s. EU leaders are preparing to meet to discuss Brexit negotiations, without UK Prime Minister Theresa May being present. Downing Street said Thursday’s meeting showed the EU was facing up to the reality that the UK was leaving. It is expected that the other members will discuss who will the lead the EU’s negotiating team in Brexit talks. This is expected to be former EU Commissioner Michel Barnier, who is in charge of the European Commission’s Brexit team.