David Davis, the British minister overseeing the process of leaving the European Union, said the U.K. can complete the negotiations on its future relationship with the bloc within the two-year time limit set out in Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.
Not much detail of the discussions will be made public until after the exit clause is triggered, probably next year, starting the 24-month countdown, Davis said as he answered questions from the EU Committee of Parliament’s upper House of Lords in London on Monday.
“Can we complete in two years?” Davis said. “I think we can, but we’re going to have to be nimble, fast and responsive. I’m wary of anything that ties our shoelaces together.”
It was the second of three appearances by Davis in front of lawmakers in just over a week to set out his Brexit strategy. He told the House of Commons last week the government is “going to take the time to get it right,” drawing criticism from opposition parties for a lack of detail. On Tuesday, he’ll face further questioning from the lower chamber’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Before Article 50 is triggered will be a rather frustrating time because we won’t be saying an awful lot,” Davis said. “We will be setting out guidelines” but “won’t be giving a running commentary.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who’s responsible for immigration, told the BBC on Sunday that work permits are under consideration as a way of controlling migration into the U.K. after Brexit and suggested that Britons might have to accept the need for visas for travel to EU countries in return. She gave no specifics.
Davis, who campaigned to leave the EU before the June 23 referendum, said he’s committed to gathering information from business and parliamentarians before the start of negotiations. Brexit has become “the sexiest area of politics,” he said, and the small number staff in his new department have been inundated with submissions from organizations wanting to influence the outcome of the process.
The semi-autonomous government in Scotland won’t be allowed by Prime Minister Theresa May to influence the Brexit process as a means of pursuing independence, Davis indicated.
“There will be no veto by anyone other than the government department; this is an instruction we’ve been given and we must carry it out, we can’t let anyone veto it,” he said. “We don’t want this to be used by anyone to damage the union.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in July that the Scottish Parliament could delay any deal for leaving the EU. “We are in a very strong position, that is a position that I am going to use as well as I can,” she said.
Discussions with the EU will not start in earnest until after May attends next month’s summit of the bloc in Brussels, Davis said. “Nobody is really going to Brussels until she’s been to the European Council in October,” he said, “Then the cascade will start.”