General Election

Election result could delay start of Brexit talks, European Commissioner warns

A police sniffer dog walks past 10 Downing Street in London, as Theresa May's future as British prime minister and leader of the Conservatives was being openly questioned after her decision to hold a snap election disastrously backfired. Picture by Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Andrew Woodcock and Catherine Wyatt, Press Association

The inconclusive result of the General Election could delay the start of Brexit negotiations, a European Commissioner has said.

Budget Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said that the EU side led by chief negotiator Michel Barnier was ready to begin talks on June 19 as planned, but it would not be clear for hours or days whether the British government would be able to join them round the table.

Mr Oettinger warned that a weak Government in London could lead to a worse result on both sides.

He told German radio station Deutschlandfunk that in negotiations, "a weaker partner weakens the whole thing", while if both sides were strong "you get results more quickly".

"We stand ready," said Mr Oettinger. "Michel Barnier is well prepared. We will be hard but fair in our dealings.

"But whether the other side can even begin remains to be seen in the next few hours or the next few days, because without a government, no negotiations."

Mr Oettinger said that the timetable to prepare for Brexit by March 29 2019 was "ambitious" and Britain had already lost a lot of time by delaying its Article 50 letter and then calling an election.

And he said: "The British will now have to set up a new team. There is a new government, perhaps a minority government, which will be dependent from day to day on shifting majorities in Parliament, in the lower house.

"We will have to see whether the negotiation chief will remain the same, how the relevant ministers will look.

"Therefore I am expecting uncertainty, because it has an effect on everything. It has an effect on tariff negotiations, on contract negotiations in business and in politics.

"Two strong partners are sovereign and can more quickly get better results that are acceptable to both sides.

"A weakened partner weakens the whole negotiation."


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