Government putting transition at risk with deadline to agree final deal

The government want a final deal by the end of Article 50 talks or it’s no deal and no transition either.

Not content with their pursuit of ‘no deal’ (even if it is just posturing), the government also seem intent on forsaking a transition deal should a final deal not be agreed by the end of Brexit negotiations. Last week, the Brexit secretary David Davis suggested as much as he told MPs that “a transition phase can only be triggered once we’ve completed the deal itself.”

David Davis: No transition unless a final deal is also agreed

Bloomberg reports this was reiterated by a spokesman for Theresa May today. Speaking to reporters from Downing Street, the prime minister’s spokesman, James Slack said: “Everybody has always been clear that we are looking to wrap all this up in one single go; everything will be agreed at the same time”. He added: “The point of an implementation period is it’s a bridge to where you’re headed, so you need to know where you’re headed to finalise that implementation period.”

This increases the pressure on the government to finalise a future trade deal that many trade experts consider impossible to achieve. Negotiations are already going slowly. Both sides had initially hoped to achieve enough progress on withdrawal talks to move onto talks of future relationship issues after last week’s EU summit. That deadline was missed and the decision on doing this has now moved to December. And it’s still uncertain whether much progress will be made by then with the government not yet ready to make a decision on its commitments over the financial settlement.

A transition deal had increasingly been highlighted as vital by businesses to allow more time for the UK and EU to come to a future relationship deal. As the BBC reports, leading business groups including the CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses and the EEF manufacturers’ body have written a joint letter calling on the government to agree a transition deal by the end of the year. They warn that failing to do so would risk UK jobs and investment.

But even if one is agreed, the government is already putting it at risk by saying that it will leave with the EU with no transition if no future deal is agreed too. And it’s not even clear that the government even knows what it wants from a final deal. The government insists the whole cabinet is united behind the prime minister’s Florence speech. However, the speech contained little detail as to what a future relationship with the EU should look like. And there seems to be a clear split between the hardline Brexiteers led by the foreign secretary and those seeking a softer Brexit led by the chancellor.

It appears the UK still needs to negotiate with itself. The government should do that before setting an unnecessary deadline that would hurt the UK.

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