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UK wants open-ended Brexit transition period, Whitehall paper shows

Published on February 21, 2018


UK wants open-ended Brexit transition period, Whitehall paper shows

The British government is seeking an open-ended transition period after Brexit, according to a Whitehall position paper shared with EU member states, which is likely to inflame tensions in the Conservative party.

The EU’s suggestion that the period end after 21 months on 31 December 2020 is being countered by calls from UK ministers for the phase to last “simply” as long as is necessary to prepare for a future trade deal.

The prime minister suggested in her Florence speech that the transition would last “about two years”.

But British businesses have heavily lobbied the government to keep the door open to a longer period, during which the UK effectively remains a member of the single market and the customs union under the jurisdiction of the European court of justice, but without any say in EU rules.

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The draft text for discussion shared with EU member states on Wednesday says: “The UK believes the period’s duration should be determined simply by how long it will take to prepare and implement the new processes and new systems that will underpin the future relationship.

“The UK agrees this points to a period of around two years, but wishes to discuss with the EU the assessment that supports its proposed end date.”

Earlier this month, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, told MEPs in Strasbourg that he believed the UK did not want to formally request a longer transition period because it would open up a debate on how much more Britain would need to pay for this.

As it stands, the divorce settlement of between £35bn and £39bn would for 21 months until the final day of the EU’s seven-year budget.

The Irish government has previously suggested that the transition period should last as long as five years to help businesses prepare.

The position paper also demands a right during the transition period for the UK to rewrite the fishing quotas that apply to its fleet .

Rather than include a “punishment clause” in any agreement, through which the UK could be sanctioned for infringing the terms of the transition, the document says a joint committee should be established to ensure problems that arise are dealt with “in good faith”.


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