1. ImALittleTeaPot's Avatar
    Britain would be unable to negotiate its exit from the EU within the two years allowed by European Union rules, the former Cabinet Secretary Lord O'Donnell has said.
    The prospect of demanding extra time from other EU nations to complete a leave deal was a "bit scary", he said.
    Asked how long a negotiation would take, he cited a Cabinet Office paper which said it could be up to a decade.
    But Out campaigners say the UK could negotiate its withdrawal at any time.
    The UK will decide in a referendum on 23 June whether to remain a member of the European Union or to leave.
    EU vote: All you need to know
    Under the process set out in the Lisbon Treaty, a nation has two years to complete a deal once it formally declares that it will withdraw from the EU.
    'Very difficult'
    Extra time is possible only if all the remaining nations agree.
    "Obviously at the end of two years anything we haven't negotiated has to be extended by unanimity of a vote excluding us so that's a bit scary," Lord O'Donnell - who advised three successive prime ministers as cabinet secretary between 2005 and 2011 - told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
    "I'm in that camp that doesn't think we can do it in two years," he said, adding that negotiating a deal to leave was a "very complex process".
    He said: "We have to negotiate our entry to the single market, we have to negotiate our future relationship with the EU and then we have to negotiate our trade treaties with all other countries. So there's a lot to be done."
    He told Today the Article 50 rules on the process were "not written in a neutral way" and warned it would be a "rather biased playing field".
    It could also be "very difficult" to achieve positive results with Germany and France facing elections in 2017, he said.
    "The politics works completely the wrong way for us", he added.
    If the UK failed to get a deal within two years, the country would revert to World Trade Organization rules, which would include significant tariffs, he added.
    2016-03-30 03:18 PM
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