UK's possible next PM rules out EU exit talks this year
By Eszter Zalan
Leading Brexit campaigner and contender to become the UK's next prime minister, Michael Gove, said he did not expect Britain to trigger Article 50, the procedure for leaving the EU, this year.
The justice secretary, who is a leading candidate for the top position in the Conservative Party, declined to specify when he would formally launch the exit process.
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"One of the reasons I said 'not in this calendar year' is that I think we need to have some preliminary conversations, I wouldn't say negotiations, so I wouldn't want to put a timetable on it," Gove said.
"We control the timing of when we trigger Article 50 and we will do it when we're good and ready," he added.
EU leaders have insisted that there would be no talks before the UK officially notifies the bloc of its intention to leave, not even on preliminary discussions, and called on the UK government to start the Article 50 procedure as soon as possible.
Until then, there will be "no negotiations of any kind" about future relations between the EU and the UK, EU leaders repeatedly said this week at their summit meeting.
Laying out his policies at a press conference, Gove pledged to bring immigration down by ending free movement from Europe.
He said he would introduce an Australian-style points-based system that gives immigrants with specific skills priority.
"I will end free movement, introduce an Australian-style points-based system for immigration, and bring numbers down. With my leadership, it will be delivered," Gove pledged.
EU leaders have repeatedly warned, however, that if the UK would like to secure access to the single market, it needs to agree to the key principles of freedom of movement for goods, services, capital and people.
Gove also said he would not call an early general election as the country needs to prepare for a "calm exit" from the EU.
On Thursday, Gove already signalled he would not be in a rush out of the bloc, if elected.
"I believe that after we've had an opportunity to negotiate and to discuss with our European partners in preliminary terms the decision that the British people have reached then in due course Article 50 needs to be triggered," he told the BBC.