- REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
- EU leaders agree that any Brexit transition must last less than two years.
- Britain must continue to observe EU trade and customs rules during the transition.
- But UK will not have any say over these rules.
- Brexit secretary David Davis says the transition period will be “very similar” to EU membership.
LONDON – Britain must be completely out of the EU by the end of 2020, EU leaders insisted on Monday.
Britain is due to leave the EU in March 2019 and Theresa May’s government has called for a Brexit transition period lasting “around two years” after that, with reports suggesting ministers are privately prepared to extend it to close to three years.
However, the EU General Affairs Council agreed on Monday that any transition period should not last beyond December 31, 2020.
The council’s report, which was agreed after just two minutes’ discussion in Brussels this afternoon, also states that Britain must observe all existing EU laws and regulations during the transition phase.
Britain will have no say over setting these rules during this period.
Leading Brexit-supporting Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg warned last week that such a situation would leave Britain as a “vassal state” of the EU.
Speaking to peers today, the Brexit Secretary David Davis dismissed reports that Britain is prepared to sign up to a transition period of up to three years as “bogus,” but said that the transition may last a few more months than two years.
He also said any transition would be “very, very similar” to our current EU membership.
“It’s not exactly the same as membership but it’s very, very similar,” he told the House of Lords EU committee.
Many Conservative MPs are growing increasingly concerned that the prime minister appears to be willing to sign Britain up to continued “regulatory alignment” with the EU after Brexit.
The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, told business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that Britain’s trading relationship with the EU would only face “very modest” changes after Brexit.
Asked about the transition, a spokesperson for the prime minister said on Monday morning that Britain remained committed to a “time-limited transition” of “around two years,” but did not rule out the possibility of signing up to a longer period.