Three UK ministers assure businesses of speedy pact on Brexit transition

UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond (Photo: Wikipedia)
Three UK cabinet ministers promised a speedy agreement on a Brexit transition phase in an open letter to British businesses, seeking to give them certainty over the immediate future.

Britain wants an implementation period of “around two years,” during which the terms of trade with the EU’s other 27 members will remain unchanged, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Business Secretary Greg Clark wrote in the letter, published late on Friday by Davis’s department.

During the transition, Britain will also adhere to EU rules and regulations, and will allow the free movement of EU citizens, who will be allowed to come to Britain to live and work, the ministers wrote. All sectors, “from goods to agriculture to financial services” and all businesses will be able to trade with the EU as they do today, they said. 

The letter aims to reassure British companies that have repeatedly called for more clarity on the government’s plans for Brexit and a planned transition period that’s scheduled to start in March 2019. The main business lobby groups had wanted the implementation period to be nailed down by the end of last year to allow them the certainty to invest and hire workers, but that deadline slipped. In Friday’s letter, the ministers wrote that they intend to tie down the deal in the first quarter.

“We believe our proposal is closely aligned with the guidelines adopted by EU leaders in December,” the ministers wrote. “Both we and the EU therefore want to agree the detail of the implementation period by the end of March, making good as swiftly as possible on our promise of certainty.”

British and European officials are holding secret discussions on extending the transition period to almost three years, the Daily Telegraph reported, without saying where it got the information. UK officials are concerned that current plans for a two-year period are too short, the newspaper said.

UK voters would like to have another referendum on leaving the EU once the terms of the country’s departure are clear, according to a survey by the Guardian newspaper and ICM. Forty-seven percent of those polled favor a second vote, compared with 34 percent who oppose it.

--With assistance from Grant Smith

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