London (AFP) - The British government rejected a report Thursday that it could take up to ten years to agree a new trade deal with the EU after Brexit, a move that could leave businesses in limbo.
Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman insisted that Britain could negotiate its departure from the European Union and a new trading arrangement within the current two-year timeframe.
Britain's ambassador to the EU, Ivan Rogers, has advised ministers that the other 27 member states believe a trade deal might not be done until the early to mid-2020s, the BBC reported.
In a meeting in October, Rogers also warned that even once it was agreed, the new deal might be rejected as each EU country's parliament would have to ratify it.
"It is not the view of Sir Ivan Rogers, it is not the view of the government," May's spokesman said.
"This is the ambassador reflecting the views of others which have been put to him, which is a role that all ambassadors carry out."
May has said she will trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon treaty, giving formal notification of Britain's intention to leave the bloc, by the end of March.
This begins a two-year countdown after which Britain will leave all the institutions and the single market, unless alternative arrangements have been agreed.
"The intention is that we will have a deal within the timeframe we've set out which sees us exit the European Union and allows us to trade with and operate in the single European market," May's spokesman said.
But two senior ministers this week indicated they might be open to agreeing some kind of transitional deal, to bridge the gap between Brexit and the completion of new trade arrangements.
Chancellor Philip Hammond, the finance minister, said on Monday that there was an "emerging view" that such an arrangement would be "helpful" to smooth the transition.
Brexit minister David Davis on Wednesday said a bridging deal could be struck "if necessary" -- although he said he still believed negotiations could be wrapped up in two years.
"What the chancellor is talking about, what the secretary of state is talking about, is how we ensure the smoothest and swiftest exit from the European Union," May's spokesman said.
"No decisions have been taken on how the process is going to unfold."