The head of trade for the European Union says that the U.K. will not be entitled to negotiate its place at Europe’s economic table until it makes good on its apparent commitment to leave the E.U.
“First you exit, then you negotiate,” Cecilia Malmstrom, the Swedish official who serves as the European Commissioner for Trade, told the BBC.
Malmstrom’s words reveal a harsh reality for the U.K., which will need up to two years to fully abandon its E.U. membership. Negotiating a trade agreement thereafter could take far more time, considering that Canada’s trade pact with the E.U. took seven years to finalize. Per E.U. strictures, the U.K. is also not allowed to negotiate trade matters with outside nations until it is no longer an E.U. member.
Malmstrom said she was “saddened” by the result of last week’s referendum, in which 52% of voters went in favor of Brexit, but “the vote was very clear.”