May ‘ducks’ timetable for Brexit transition deal

23 Oct

Theresa May, who was answering questions after updating Parliament on negotiations with the EU ahead of Brexit in 2019, was twice asked when a trade deal might be done.

But she failed to provide details other than to repeat a statement from EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier that the negotiations would have to be concluded by October 2018.

Downing Street said today that discussion about an “implementation period”, which is also being called a transition period, would only take place alongside negotiations about a final trade deal.

It prompted one of her questioners, Labour MP Yvette Cooper, to accuse her of having “ducked” the chance to provide the certainty businesses need, saying that an October 2018 conclusion would only give firms a six month period to plan.



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Iain Duncan-Smith was the first to ask a question about when the trade negotiations might start.

Mrs May said: “I have, in my discussions with other leaders, raised the issue of the timetable and the ultimate timetable set by the Lisbon treaty and my right honourable friend talks about knowing the details of the trade deal by next summer – of course Michel Barnier himself has suggested October 2018 might be the point at which it would be necessary to know that – but there will be a period of time required for ratification and as we know that can be more than one.”

Ms Cooper’s then asked a question about when discussions about a transition period would conclude.

Mrs May responded: “An implementation period is about a period which is adjusting to the future relationship. That’s the basis on which I have put it to the European Union and that is the basis on which we will be negotiating an agreement on it.”


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Ms Cooper later tweeted: “Just asked PM to confirm that means if no final trade deal by next Oct that means no transition & WTO tariffs by March19. She ducked.

“So looks like British business will get just 6 months to change arrangements. How on earth can they make that work or plan? Shocking.”

On Sunday, Sky News revealed the five leading business lobbying groups have written to the Brexit Secretary telling him the Government must secure a Brexit transition “as close as possible [to] the status quo” or there will be “serious decisions” about relocating jobs out of the UK.

Mrs May, in her statement to the House, said that there were only “a small number of issues that remain outstanding” in the opening phase of the Brexit negotiations.


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Brussels has said that the UK and the EU have to agree on the Brexit bill, EU citizens’ right and the Ireland/Northern Ireland border before the talks can move on to trade and other matters.

Mrs May said: “We are in touching distance of a deal. This agreement will provide certainty about residence, healthcare, pensions and other benefits.”

“It will enable families who have built their lives together to stay together and will provide guarantees that the rights of UK nationals in the EU and EU nationals in the UK will not diverge over time,” she added.

“We will also ensure that the implementation of the agreement we reach does not create complicated and bureaucratic hurdles.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in his response that it was “Groundhog Day” before warning the Prime Minister her biggest battle was with the “warring” Tory factions rather than the EU.


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He said the Prime Minister is “too weak” to do anything about it, adding this increases the prospect of “crashing out” with no deal.

“Only two weeks ago she told this House that her speech in Florence had put momentum into the Article 50 negotiations, and that an agreement on phrase one of these talks was within touching distance,” he said.

“Well, here we are again after another round of talks and we’re still no clearer as to when negotiations on Britain’s future with our largest trading partner will actually begin.

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