Need for phased UK de­par­ture from EU

The Star Early Edition - - INTERNATIONAL - Kylie MacLel­lan

SE­NIOR mem­bers of the gov­ern­ment are be­com­ing con­vinced of the need for a phased Bri­tish de­par­ture from the EU to help pro­tect the econ­omy, fi­nance min­is­ter Philip Ham­mond said yes­ter­day.

Brexit min­is­ter David Davis heads to Brus­sels to­day for a first full round of talks, with EU of­fi­cials hop­ing the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment, yet to set out de­tailed pro­pos­als on sev­eral ma­jor is­sues, be­gins to show more ur­gency about do­ing a deal be­fore Bri­tain leaves the bloc in 2019.

Ham­mond, who sup­ported re­main­ing in the EU at last year’s ref­er­en­dum, is seen as the voice of a so-called “soft Brexit” within Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s cab­i­net, favour­ing prioritising trade ties with the EU over curb­ing im­mi­gra­tion.

With May weak­ened by a failed elec­tion gam­ble last month which saw her Con­ser­va­tives lose their par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity, week­end pa­pers were full of sto­ries of in­fight­ing.

Ham­mond, re­garded as one po­ten­tial suc­ces­sor to May, has re­peat­edly talked about the need for a tran­si­tional deal, say­ing such an ar­range­ment would see Bri­tain repli­cate as much as pos­si­ble the ex­ist­ing ar­range­ments in or­der to min­imise the im­pact on busi­ness.

Ham­mond said the ma­jor­ity of his col­leagues now recog­nised this was “the right and sen­si­ble way to go”.

“Five weeks ago the idea of a tran­si­tion pe­riod was quite a new con­cept, I think now you would find that pretty much ev­ery­body around the cab­i­net ta­ble ac­cepts that there will be some kind of tran­si­tion,” Ham­mond told BBC TV.

“I think you’ll find the cab­i­net ral­ly­ing around a po­si­tion that max­imises our ne­go­ti­at­ing lever­age and gets the best pos­si­ble deal for Bri­tain.”

Trade min­is­ter Liam Fox, who favours mak­ing a cleaner break with the bloc, said he did not have a prob­lem with a tran­si­tion pe­riod as long as it was for a lim­ited du­ra­tion and gave Bri­tain the free­dom to ne­go­ti­ate its own trade deals.


Ham­mond said the gov­ern­ment needed to pro­vide as much clar­ity as pos­si­ble, as soon as pos­si­ble, to re­store busi­ness and con­sumer con­fi­dence and keep the econ­omy mov­ing.

“It is ab­so­lutely clear that busi­nesses, where they have dis­cre­tion over in­vest­ment, where they can hold off, are do­ing so… they are wait­ing for more clar­ity about what the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with Europe will look like,” he said.

The length of any tran­si­tion would de­pend on how long is needed to get new sys­tems in place in ar­eas such as cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion, but it should be a de­fined pe­riod and was likely to need to be “a cou­ple of years,” Ham­mond added.


David Davis, UK’s Brexit min­is­ter, heads to Brus­sels to­day for a first full round of talks with EU of­fi­cials, where the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment needs to show more ur­gency about do­ing a deal be­fore 2019.

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