London: Britain`s departure from the European Union could be softened by a transitional deal, allowing time to set the terms of a full divorce, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told Sky News Friday.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to trigger Article 50 of the EU`s Lisbon Treaty in March, starting a two-year countdown to negotiate Britain`s departure from the bloc.
"I think it would be impossible to do all of the negotiations inside the contemplated two-year period," warned Kenny
"There`s a growing feeling in Europe that there should be a transition period, and that transition period might well be longer than those two years. I wouldn`t like to put a timescale on it."
The Irish leader insisted there had been "no substantial discussion" at the European Council about Brexit, but that fellow EU leaders saw free movement of people as a "red-line issue" in any future trade deal with Britain.
Kenny said he hoped that Britain would retain access to the EU`s common market in order to avoid tariff complications at the Republic of Ireland`s land border with Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain.
"It would mean inconvenience, delays and time-wasting, extra costs and job losses," he said.
Former British prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair angered Brexit supporters earlier Friday by raising the idea of a second referendum on the terms of the divorce.
Maltese President Joseph Muscat, whose country takes over the EU`s rotating presidency in January, earlier told the BBC that European leaders were "not bluffing" about maintaining open borders and that he would "not be surprised" if an ongoing legal challenge delayed May`s plans to trigger Article 50.