Brexit transition should end before 2021

Michel Barnier called for a limited transitional period

The EU says any ‘transition period’ after Brexit should end by December 31, 2020 – meaning it would last just 21 months.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May had asked for a period of ‘around two years’ and the European Parliament has said it should be not more than three.

The statement by the EU is part of its negotiating position for a second phase of talks, including the transition and the ‘future relationship’. In the first phase the EU and UK came to agreement on their positions on expat rights – which we explain further in the January issue of The Connexion newspaper, in newsagents from tomorrow and available as a download here. 

Answering questions in parliament yesterday, Mrs May restated her wish for ‘around two years’ of transition – referring to a period in which the UK would continue to follow EU rules although its formal EU membership would have ceased. Free movement and expat rights would continue as usual during this period.

Mrs May said the purpose  of a transition is “not two more years to negotiate with the EU” but rather two years for businesses and governments to put in place practical changes required for the move to a new UK/EU relationship.

The UK government believes it is possible to agree the future relationship – including a trade deal and cooperation on matters like defence and security – before Brexit day, expected to be March 29, 2019.

However the EU expects that a ‘framework’ only – giving outlines of the hoped-for outcome – will be achieved by then, and says this could be attached to the formal exit treaty (on matters like the exit bill, expat rights and the Northern Ireland border) as a statement of political intent.

EU sources told Connexion it is not possible to fully negotiate or conclude a detailed trade deal while the UK is still a member of the EU.

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Speaking to journalists yesterday, EU negotiator Michel Barnier confirmed the proposal to end the transition by December 31, 2020. He also said there would only be a transition period if there is an ‘orderly withdrawal’ and the full exit deal – including expat rights – is respected as now agreed.

The date was chosen because it coincides with the end of the EU’s current seven-year budget period.

Mr Barnier added that because of UK ‘red lines’ such as rejecting the European Court of Justice and free movement, the UK cannot have a trade deal as close as such non-EU European countries as Norway or Switzerland. Instead, the EU expects to conclude one similar to those it has signed with Canada, South Korea or Japan, he said.

This would be expected to concern goods only, not services as Mr Barnier said the EU has no deals including services with comparable states.

During a transition period it is understood that Britain could negotiate new deals with other non-EU states but could not implement them.

Mr Barnier noted that on leaving the EU the UK will also leave 750 international agreements that the EU has signed with non-EU countries. These include 34 trade deals covering 60 countries as well as other bilateral agreements on matters like finance, the environment, fishing, transport, data, agriculture and nuclear fuel.

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