No serious negotiations are likely on Britain's exit from the European Union until after next year's German general election, former EU president Herman Van Rompuy said on Thursday.
"Before the German elections and before there is a new German government, I think no serious negotiations will take place," Van Rompuy told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"You can always start with more technical matters but the hardcore, the difficult topics, will be tackled after the constitution of a new German government and that will be October-November [next year]," he said.
Van Rompuy said he expected Brexit negotiations to be "difficult" due to various "red lines," such as the EU's insistence on free movement of people as a condition of Britain's continued access to the European single market.
A narrow majority of British voters opted to leave the European Union in a referendum on June 23.
New Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will not trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets the rules for a two-year negotiating process for a nation leaving the EU, before the start of 2017.