Watch Boris Johnson discuss triggering Article 50 in early 2017

Boris Johnson has said the Government expects to begin formal talks for Britain to leave the EU by "the early part of next year".

The Foreign Secretary is currently in New York where he has been attending the United Nations. He even suggested that discussions could be wrapped up before the two-year deadline.

"We are talking to our European friends and partners in the expectation that by the early part of next year you will see an Article 50 letter. We will invoke that," he told Sky News.

He emphasises the important relationship between Britain and the EU, whilst also mentioning the fun facts that we drink more Italian wine than anyone else in Europe and also consume 300 million litres of prosecco every year. Who knew?

(Andrew Milligan/PA)

Johnson's remarks are likely to be welcomed by pro-Leave campaigners as an indication the Government is preparing for a "hard Brexit". They go further than Theresa May, who has said only that Article 50 will not be invoked before the start of 2017.

Johnson also insisted that even after Brexit, the UK would continue to be a "participant" on defence and security issues.

His comments came as it emerged that Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan had claimed on the eve of the referendum vote that Johnson had not really wanted Britain to leave the EU.

Boris Johnson
(Nick Ansell/PA)

In a clip shown as part of the BBC2 documentary Brexit: A Very British Coup?, Sir Alan - who was then a backbencher - said he believed Johnson had only put himself at the head of the Vote Leave campaign to position himself for a Conservative leadership challenge.

Despite these claims, Johnson insists that Britain will continue to thrive outside the EU. "We are going to benefit from the fantastic opportunities for free trade with our friends in the EU. It is overwhelmingly in their interests to do it," he said.

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