Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:3PM
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addresses a press conference at the European Commission in Brussels on February 13, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addresses a press conference at the European Commission in Brussels on February 13, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned that the United Kingdom will have to pay a "very hefty" bill to leave the 28-member bloc.

Speaking to the Belgian federal parliament on Tuesday, the European Commission chief said Brexit would cost Britain a noticeable amount of money and a lengthy process.

"It will be a difficult negotiation that will take years for us to agree on the exit terms and on the future architecture of relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union," Juncker said. "The British must know -- and they know it already -- that it will not be at a discount or zero cost... The British are expected to respect the commitments they made. And so the bill, to say it a bit coarsely, will be very hefty.”

Juncker noted that the two year deadline for reaching an agreement is very unlikely to be met as years are needed to make arrangements, also stressing that the issue should be settled without hostility and while appreciating Britain’s contribution to Europe.

"We need to settle our affairs not with our hearts full of a feeling of hostility, but with the knowledge that the continent owes a lot to the UK … Our British friends will need to understand that we want to continue to develop European integration," the European Commission president concluded.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (pictured above) has promised to begin the Brexit process in March and complete it by 2019. The EU has warned that Britain would have less than 18 months to reach a deal to exit the bloc once Brexit negotiations begin.

In a landmark referendum held on June 23, nearly 52 percent of British voters, amounting to more than 17 million citizens, opted to leave the EU.