May eyes two-year transition deal with EU after Brexit

The UK will honor its commitment to a transitional deal commencing in 2019 to ensure a smooth exit from the EU. In her speech Theresa May also guaranteed the right to remain for EU citizens in the UK.

Theresa May speaking in Florence about the future of Brexit
The UK wants to see a two-year transitional period after the Brexit date of March 29 2019 to enable both Britain and the EU to fully implement new trade and legal arrangements, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday.

UK commits to a two-year transitional period

In a keynote speech in Florence aimed at kick-starting the Brexit process, Mrs May said Britain would honour the UK’s commitments to the EU during the transitional “implementation” period, which analysts have suggested would mean the UK pouring 20 billion euros into Brussels’ coffers.The prime minister said that, by March 2019, “neither the UK or EU will be in a position to implement smoothly new arrangements” to underpin the new relationship both sides seek.During the transitional period, which Mrs May believed would last two years, existing arrangements on free trade would apply, including the free movement of people, although this would be subject to a registration system in the UK.The prime minister also promised the three million-plus EU citizens already in the UK that would they would be able to remain, with government giving a “real” guarantee to their rights. She said, “We want you to stay, we value you and we thank you for your contributions to our national life.”While the EU is seeking an undertaking that its nationals in Britain would remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Brexit, Mrs May would only say UK courts should be able to take account of ECJ rulings in disputes.As Mrs May made her 35-minute speech in the Santa Maria Novella basilica, about 30 members of the New Europeans campaign group staged a demonstration in the piazza outside calling on her to immediately guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK.Organiser Roger Casale, a former British MP, said both sides need should not use the expats as negotiating pawns and, instead, enshrine their existing rights in a treaty.“It’s wrong to negotiate about the lives and rights of people who have been left in limbo without their voices being heard,” Mr Casale said. “We’re here to show solidarity with EU citizens who desperately need that guarantee, if she chooses to offer that as the olive branch, in my view she has chosen very well and I think that will go down very well with EU leaders.” 

Prime minister seeks to avoid tariffs

On trade, Mrs May said, “Let us be creative as well as practical in designing an economic partnership.” She pointed out the UK was one of the EU’s largest trading partner and “the EU is our largest trading partner”, so “there is no need to impose tariffs”.She also said that the UK would want to continue to cooperate in security matters with the EU and to participate indefinitely in programmes in areas such as science, education and culture beyond Brexit.Mrs May, while repeating her mantra that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, insisted that Brexit represented an opportunity “for both of us in the UK and EU to come to a new partnership”, which would herald “a great future for the EU and UK”.
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Reacting to the speech, Bruce Potter, the author of law firm Blake Morgan’s Brexit guide for businesses, said, “Theresa May set out to strike a conciliatory and calming note with today’s speech in Florence, but it was not enough to paper over the huge gap that remains between the UK’s domestic political view of Brexit and the way that the rest of Europe sees it.“The question of continued payments to the EU is a huge stumbling block which must be resolved if any useful talks are to take place on life after Brexit – the vital issue for the UK political audience.“Mrs May has asked the EU to be ‘imaginative and creative’ but until she is more forthcoming about exactly what she wants Brexit to be, it is hard to imagine anything but continued deadlock.”
Read David Sapsted's article on Brexit: The great relocation battle – which discusses the tussle for European agencies relocating post-Brexit – in the Autumn 2017 issue of Relocate Magazine.
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