The former secretary general of the European Commission, Catherine Day, has said it is politically desirable to have a longer period to negotiate the exit of the United Kingdom from the EU. 

She said a negotiating period of longer than two years is provided for in the EU treaties, but she did not expect Britain to seek an extension immediately, as it is not yet ideologically ready to make the kind of compromises needed to ensure a smooth and easy process for leaving the EU.

The former top Eurocrat was speaking at an event organised by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe - the political family of a number of centre parties in the EU, including Fianna Fáil.

Ms Day, said Brussels is ready for the Brexit negotiations, but Britain has yet to make up its mind on where it is willing to compromise.

"At the moment it is saying it wants everything, well for that you have to be a member of the EU," said Ms Day.

"I think it’s encouraging that people in the UK are focusing on what it’s all going to add up to.

"The EU is very open to all sorts of arrangements, but every arrangement has a price - so if you want to be in the single market you have to accept free movement, if you want to be in the customs union you can’t negotiate your own trade agreements with anyone else. 

"So everyone is waiting for the UK to get down to the nitty-gritty, so let us see."