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UK Official Predicts a Protracted Brexit Trade Negotiation

Once it’s officially initiated, Brexit will take two years to complete. Coming to an agreement on a new trade deal between Britain and the European Union, however, could take up to a decade.

This according to Sir Ivan Rogers, British ambassador to the E.U. His is the longest predicted timeframe on record, though others have said realistically a deal will take at least five years. One main outstanding question is what the new arrangement will look like. Whether the new agreement will be a free trade arrangement or a single market membership, remains unclear.

No matter which route is decided, the deal is still vulnerable, since in order to be ratified, it must pass the parliaments of all 27 member countries. In other words, years of negotiations could get them nowhere.

There is no official word from the British government on Rogers’ predicted 10-year timeline. For her part, British Prime Minister Theresa May is pushing for a smooth Brexit and subsequent trade talks.

No matter how much time elapses until a new deal is in place, the question remains: What happens in the mean time? Will Britain continue to enjoy a single market membership while the new deal is hammered out?

Some of these questions may begin to become clearer after today’s meeting of EU leaders, during which they will have preliminary discussions about the Brexit negotiation. It may prove to be a difficult knot to unravel since no country has ever left the trade bloc. Therefore, there’s no precedent for separating the intertwined legal, trade and immigration laws.

Talks will start in earnest once the UK formerly invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Prime Minister May has indicated that Britain will do so in March.