BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Parliament's biggest group says it will not be possible to negotiate Britain's divorce proceedings and a new relationship at the same time, and warns that the two-year negotiation timeframe will be too short to have a full Brexit resolution.
Manfred Weber, the head of the Christian Democratic EPP group, called it "a kind of mission impossible" exacerbated by the nine months lost since the British voted to leave on June 23 last year. Britain is set to trigger the start of negotiations on Wednesday.
EU officials have insisted the divorce terms must be settled before talks on a new relationship with Britain can begin, while London had hoped the two things could be done simultaneously.
"Otherwise we would mix up everything, that would even complicate all the procedures," Weber said in defense of the sequential timeline.
Weber said any trade deal with third countries usually takes years to complete.
And considering there would be months needed to approve the texts within the two-year span, it makes for a short time to push through such an unprecedented process.
Weber said that trade deals with individual nations, like the one with Canada, take over half a decade to negotiate and even that one is still in the process of full approval.
The parliament itself will not be in the negotiating chair but the legislature will have to approve any Brexit deal.
From now on, Weber said, the parliament would be looking out for the 27 EU nations and its 440 citizens first and foremost, "and no longer these of Britain."
He refused to speculate how expensive the bill will be for Britain, with estimates going as high as 60 billion euros ($65 billion) but said "it will be very costly."
As a result, he called the Brexit referendum decision "a historic mistake."