UK's Davis wants 'minimalist' customs deal with EU
European Union ministers met in Brussels on Monday and signed off on their common negotiating stance for the Brexit transition – the grace period to smooth the divorce and help businesses prepare to trade under a new regime.
Britain's lead negotiator David Davis has signalled the UK was prepared to accept the EU terms for the transition period – which include following the bloc's rules without having a say in EU policy making.
There is concern in parts of Britain's Conservative party, which is in power as a minority government, that transition would represent a humiliating loss of sovereignty for Britain. Davis said on Friday that negotiators would try to find a way to avoid having to accept rules made in Brussels that damage UK interests.
Any indication that talks over transition could be drawn out will be bad news for business, which is keen to get the details pinned down as soon as possible, and certainly within the first-quarter deadline the government has set itself.
Davis appeared before the House of Lords EU Committee to face questions about Brexit and referred to the UK seeking a "minimalist" customs deal.
"Mr Barnier has said that he hopes to conclude in October, the autumn of this year," Davis said. "We are also seeking of course the future relationship and the withdrawal agreement in parallel.
"That may push it a little later because we will not want to sign the withdrawal agreement until we have got the substance of the future relationship ironed out as well. So the last quarter of the year is I think about where we’re aiming at," he said.
It’s done -– and quickly
The EU General Affairs Council adopted guidelines for the transition period within two minutes, setting out a status quo transition without institutional representation, lasting from when the UK leaves the EU on March 29, 2019 to 31 December 2020.
The UK is seeking a period of about two years
"I hope it doesn’t get prolonged in any way" beyond the two years, Ann Linde, Sweden's minister for EU affairs said. She added that giving the UK a greater say over law-making will be "difficult."
"The ball is in U.K. camp and up to the Brits to tell us what they want," said Italy’s Sandro Gozi. But "you leave, you leave. You can’t remain in the decision-making process."
He said the transition should last until the end of 2020, but Italy is open if the UK needs extra time.
The UK will seek to extract concessions from the EU over the terms of the transition deal, a government spokesman said.
"There is obviously going to be a negotiation on what the implementation period will look like," government spokesman James Slack told reporters. "There will naturally be some distance between our positions" at the start of the negotiation.
That contrasts with comments from Davis last week, who said he was relaxed about the terms of transition and laughed at suggestions from eurosceptic lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg that accepting rules from the EU while having no say in policy making would turn Britain into a vassal state.