Martin Schulz, FRANCE EU PARLIAMENT.jpg
Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament
Photograph: EPA/PATRICK SEEGER

Britain needs to leave the European Union before parliamentary elections in the bloc in mid-2019, EU Parliament President Martin Schulz said Thursday.

Negotiations on a so-called Brexit can take no longer than two years, meaning that Britain would have to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - which sets the rules for a two-year negotiating process for a nation leaving the EU - by the middle of next year.

Schulz said that considering the highly complex modalities of a British exit from the bloc, he could understand that the British government wanted to take its time over the decision.

However, he added that it would be impossible for Britons to take part in the election, which sees member states elect deputies to represent them in the legislature in Brussels, and that Brexit needed to be completed before then.

A narrow majority of British voters opted to leave the European Union in a referendum on June 23. Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will not trigger Article 50 before the start of 2017.

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