- The Treasury Select Committee has called for a transition deal which essentially keeps the UK within the EU for a fixed period after it formally leaves in March 2019
- The committee said such a deal would speed up negotiations and allow the government to focus on securing a future trade deal with the EU.
- “The Government should be prepared to accept the terms on which transition is offered by the EU27,” said committee chair Nicky Morgan MP.
LONDON – The government should “urgently” consider a deal to keep the UK within the EU for a fixed period after it formally leaves in March 2019, according to a report from the influential Treasury Select Committee.
The committee’s report, written by a cross-party group of MPs, said any transition deal must be simple enough “to negotiate within a matter of weeks,” which could result in a deal that covers EU rules beyond the European single market and “retains direct effect and supremacy of EU law” if it speeds up negotiations.
Prime Minister Theresa May has already suggested the UK will push for a two-year transition period to avoid UK firms falling off a “cliff-edge” before it leaves the single market fully, but the Treasury committee’s recommendations call for much closer alignment than just single market membership during the transition period. The proposal is likely to be with fierce opposition from pro-Brexit MPs in the Conservative party.
The committee said it agreed with Chancellor Philip Hammond that transitional arrangements are “a wasting asset” and should be sufficiently simple to negotiate within a matter of weeks in order to maximise the time available for negotiations on a future trade deal.
Conservative MP Nicky Morgan, chair of the committee, said the need for a “standstill” transition deal was “now urgent” given business fears about the UK crashing out of the EU without a future trade deal.
“The consequences of failing to reach an agreement are dramatic and damaging,” she said.
“Many businesses will begin to prepare for a ‘no deal’ outcome – moving jobs and activity, and incurring potentially unnecessary expenditure – early next year.”
“Transition arrangements must therefore be straightforward enough to negotiate in a matter of weeks.
“Speed is of the essence. Delays to agreements caused by arguments over arcane points of principle could damage the economy. The Government should be prepared to accept the terms on which transition is offered by the EU27.”
The ultimate success of a deal would rely upon more than consensus among MPs.
Senior figures in the European Parliament warned on Tuesday that it would not offer the UK a transition deal until offered more clarity about the future trade relationship it is seeking, having completed the first phase of talks last week.
Manfred Weber, who leads the largest political group in the European Parliament, told journalists in Strasbourg: “I must tell you that I have no idea what is really the British idea, about what they want to achieve. That’s why I’m not ready to give already now a consent to a transitional period, and we link it to the question of progress in the second phase.”
European officials have also warned a transition deal would not automatically include the current terms of trade with countries outside the EU, and an FT report in May said Britain may need to renegotiate 750 international treaties agreed by the EU just to “stand still” once it leaves.