The European Union said Friday that the timing of Britain's exit from the bloc was in London's hands, following a court decision that could delay the process.
British Prime Minister Theresa May had been expected to tell European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that she would stick to a late-March deadline for starting the process following the shock June Brexit vote.
"The president (Juncker) explicitly stressed that he respects the legal order and constitutional order of the UK," commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said while briefing reporters about a phone conversation between Juncker and May.
"And this is now a British affair. The timing is in the hands of the British authorities," Andreeva said, without disclosing details of the call.
"It was rather a short phone call," she added when asked to characterise the exchange.
May's office said earlier she still intended to fire the starting gun on official divorce talks "by the end of March", despite Thursday's High Court ruling that her government does not have the power on its own to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would formally start the process.
The decision raises the prospect of a protracted parliamentary debate -- in a chamber that overwhelmingly opposed Brexit -- before May can proceed.
EU leaders themselves have urged London to begin the talks as soon as possible so as to remove the uncertainty caused by Britain's departure from the 28-member bloc.