By William James
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will make public its guidelines for talks on leaving the European Union by the time it triggers the exit process, Brexit minister David Davis said on Monday, in the first indication of when Britons will find out what the government hopes to achieve in the talks.
Prime Minister Theresa May's government has warned it will reveal little about its strategy on key issues like immigration and trade as it prepares to negotiate Britain's exit from the EU following the shock June 23 referendum vote to leave.
But Davis, head of the newly created Department for Exiting the European Union, said the negotiating process itself would not be a "black box" and that details would begin to emerge once the legal exit procedure, known as 'Article 50' began.
"It will start, I guess, at the point of triggering Article 50. We will at that point have a some clear public negotiating guidelines," David told a committee of lawmakers investigating the role of parliament in the Brexit process.
The government has been pressed for detailed answers on how it intends to enact the decision to quit the bloc by everyone from business leaders to foreign allies.
So far, it has revealed little.
"Before Article 50 is triggered there will be a rather frustrating time, because we won't be saying an awful lot," Davis said. He said giving a running commentary on the talks would undermine Britain's negotiating stance.
Separately, finance minister Philip Hammond sought to address the concerns of businesses about Brexit, meeting with large exporters like Honda <7267.T>, Airbus <AIR.PA> and GlaxoSmithKline <GSK.L> to tell them that trade with EU member states would be a priority in the exit talks.
FAST AND RESPONSIVE
Once the exit process has been started, Britain has an initial two-year period to negotiate its departure. Davis said this time frame was possible, but would require the government to be "nimble, fast and responsive." The talks can be extended if both parties agree.
Davis said parliament would be called upon to pass new laws to enact the exit from the bloc. The government has previously stated parliament did not need to approve the decision to trigger an exit.
He said the negotiating strategy would be drawn up by assessing feedback from other government departments which have been asked to consult with relevant parties on the opportunities brought about by leaving, the risks of leaving, and best policies to mitigate those risks.
"At that point, which is not yet, we will be doing some quite quantitative assessment of what we think the advantages and disadvantages are," he said. "We need to take an empirical approach. The purpose of this is not to damage the national interest or damage economic interest, it's just the reverse."
(Additional reporting by Estelle Shirbon and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Hugh Lawson)