Brexit talks can start 'when United Kingdom is ready', says European Union chief negotiator

A top EU official warned Friday following the results that a weak British negotiating partner would further complicate talks on the country's exit from the European Union.

"We don't know when Brexit talks will start".

Given the magnitude of those discussions - and the lingering uncertainty as to what, exactly, Brexit will mean - May called the June 8 snap election as a means of strengthening her negotiating position beforehand.

"We need a government that can act", said Günther Oettinger, speaking on Deutschlandfunk, a German public radio station, Friday morning.

Brussels had set June 19 as the start date for talks, but a series of key figures said that was now in doubt after Prime Minister Theresa May's gamble to increase her majority failed.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier indicated the remaining 27 members were prepared to be flexible.

"Our shared responsibility and urgent task now is to conduct the negotiations on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union in the best possible spirit, securing the least disruptive outcome for our citizens, businesses and countries after March 2019", he said.

The chair of the European Parliament's centre-right grouping, Manfred Weber, warned: "The clock is ticking for Brexit".

One Brussels source said the comments reflected the EU's view that - while it was up to London to decide the next steps - "in the meantime the clock is ticking".

Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian Prime Minister and now the leader of the European Parliamentary group of liberals and democrats, described the general election result as "yet another own goal" for the UK.

"But whether the other side can even begin remains to be seen in the next few hours or the next few days, because without a government, no negotiations".

"Yet another own goal, after Cameron now May will make already complex negotiations even more complicated", Belgian ex-prime minister Verhofstadt said on Twitter. She has no credibility in United Kingdom or Europe.

When the talks do begin, experts say there could be a very different approach from the "hard Brexit" advocated by May that would involve leaving Europe's single market and curbing European immigration.

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said he hoped the election result would be seen as a message that the British people do not want a hard Brexit.

He said: "The British will now have to set up a new team. Everybody will notice that and that changes the dynamic", Kelly said.

  • Zachary Reyes