It was a mistake to create a separate department to deal with Brexit, a British former minister has said.
Former prime minister Theresa May's de facto deputy David Lidington said the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) should have been "an annex to the Cabinet Office and Number 10".
The former Tory cabinet minister added that with a different approach to Brexit negotiations at the start of the process "it would have been possible then to come to the deal earlier".
DExEU was closed on Friday, January 31, Brexit deadline day.
"I think that, as is now recognised, it was a mistake to create DExEU as a separate department.
"Now, that's not to denigrate the officials or the ministers who work there, but the fact you had then DExEU try to do things and Number 10 and the cabinet trying to do things as well.
"But trying to knit that together just took more energy and time than should have been necessary."
He also revealed that the cross-party talks between the Conservatives and the Labour Party came "pretty close" to finding a compromise over Brexit.
"I think, at the end of the day, perhaps late in the day, it was just there was an unwillingness on both sides, to make the final leap."
Asked whether Mrs May was to blame for what happened, he said: "Ultimately, every prime minister has responsibility for what happens in their government.
"I think that, I do think the mistakes were made early," he said.
"I think that if you go back to 2016, I don't think that there was sufficient recognition of, you know, how hard some of the political choices in the negotiations would be."