Watch: Boris Johnson Sets May 2017 As New Deadline for Triggering Article 50

 But on Thursday Downing Street publicly corrected him, saying in a statement that the decision was up to May:

“The Government’s position is clear. The prime minister has said she will not trigger Article 50 before the end of the year. Ultimately it’s her decision.

She has said she will deliver on the Brexit vote and she won’t kick it into the long grass, but she will do it when she considers she can secure the best deal for Britain.”

Last week former chancellor George Osborne said the formal process of Brexit should not start until the end of 2017, when the UK would know the outcome of the French and German presidential elections, which he said would help in negotiations.

But this morning Johnson said the process would start earlier than that. 

“The key is to not let the progress drag on”, he said.

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