“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 EU membership. Negotiating a trade agreement thereafter could take far more time, considering that Canada’s trade pact with the EU took seven years to finalize. Per EU strictures, the U.K. is also not allowed to negotiate trade matters with outside nations until it is no longer an EU 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.”