Herman Van Rompuy speaking to the BBC earlier this morning 15 Sept

  • substantive Brexit talks between the UK and the rest of the EU are unlikely to start much before the end of 2017
  • negotiations were unlikely until a new German government was formed after next September's election
  • UK's decision to leave the EU was a "political amputation"

"Before the German elections and before there is a new German government, I think no serious negotiations will take place.

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."

Van Rompuy described the senior figures appointed to negotiate for the EU, who include Belgian ex-Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and French finance expert Michel Barnier, as "very very tough" but also "very pragmatic".

He denied leaders wanted to "punish" the UK for leaving the EU, but said there was a desire not to encourage other countries to leave.

"Any negotiation will be a difficult negotiation, independent of the personalities.

"Of course we want an agreement which represents some kind of mutual benefit.

"There are huge economic interests, but there are also red lines. It is very well known that freedom of movement [of EU nationals] is a red line."

Looks like an Article 50 trigger-pull will be pointless ahead of the French and German elections after all despite UK PM May suggesting otherwise.

More from the Beeb interview here

Van Rompuy- Brexit is a "political amputation"