UK Politics

Brexit stance may not be 'crystallised' before Article 50 triggered, says minister

A woman holding Article 50 in front of the EU flag Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty sets out the process by which countries may leave the EU

A Brexit minister has suggested the government's aims in negotiations with the European Union may not be finalised by the time Article 50 is triggered.

David Jones told a House of Lords committee the UK's negotiating position may not be "totally crystallised" by next spring.

Mr Jones said the government was at an early stage of the process and that thinking was "developing".

Theresa May has said Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March 2017.

This will put in process formal talks with the EU, which will last for up to two years before Brexit happens.

Mr Jones, a minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, was appearing before the EU Home Affairs sub-committee, which is investigating the security implications of Brexit.

He was questioned on what government departments hoped to get out of any eventual agreement with the EU.

'Relatively early stage'

Mr Jones said: "We wish to proceed at a pretty brisk pace, because clearly the work of my department covers the entirety of government.

"We would like to see our negotiating position, if not totally crystallised, at least worked up to a very high level by the time that Article 50 is finally triggered, so an early report from this committee would be very much appreciated."

Later, Mr Jones responded to a question from Conservative peer Lord Cormack, repeating the assertion.

He said: "I have to say, in all frankness, and I don't think you will be surprised if I do say this, we are at a relatively early stage of this process.

"Our thinking is developing and we are looking, as I said earlier, to have if not precisely crystallised at least a very highly developed position by the time we serve our Article 50 notice."

UK voters opted in favour of leaving the EU by 51.9% to 48.1% in a referendum in June.

Several MPs have urged a parliamentary vote on what the government's position is before negotiations with the EU begin.

But the government says this is constitutionally unnecessary and could undermine its bargaining power as issues including access to the European single market and migration controls are discussed.

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