The EU’s legislative process has been under intense scrutiny, with MPs demanding answers about the UK’s plans to leave the bloc.
The UK government says it has not yet decided how it will proceed with the Brexit negotiations, but the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Thursday that there was no reason to think that Brexit negotiations would take longer than 18 months.
The Brexit talks, he said, were “very, very important” and they must be “completed in time.”
“We have to be clear that if the UK does not reach an agreement by the end of March, then there will be no deal,” Barnier said.
The British government has said it would like to negotiate the exit from the EU in parallel with the EU-Canada trade deal, but it is also facing stiff resistance from members of its own parliament.
“The UK will be free to negotiate separately with Canada and other countries in the EU on its trade agreement,” said a senior British official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The official said the UK government has agreed to a trade agreement with Canada to help boost trade with Canada.
The Canadian government has expressed “serious concern” about Britain’s exit from its single market and wants to keep the country within the EU, but Britain has said that it would be happy to negotiate a new trade agreement.
The EU’s most powerful trade union, the European Parliament, also criticized Britain’s departure from the single market as “unacceptable.”
“The European Parliament will not accept a situation where the UK is leaving the single EU market and the single currency and its trading partners have to pay more for the goods that they are buying,” said European Parliament president Martin Schulz.EU leaders have called for a second round of talks with the UK in 2019, which could see the EU agree to trade tariffs on imports from the UK.
But the EU has said Britain must abide by the same rules as other member states, which includes agreeing to pay the same tariff rates as the United States.