EU may limit UK’s Brexit transition to 20 months

Written by Nicholas Mairs on 27 October 2017 in News

The move could see Britain outside of the single market and customs union by the end of 2020

Michel Barnier - Image credit: European Parliament audiovisual

The European Union is drawing up plans to offer Theresa May a post-Brexit transition period of just 20 months, it has been reported.

The Prime Minister formally requested a transition window of “about two years”, as part of her Florence speech last month.

However, the move could see Britain outside the single market and customs union by December 2020, short of the spring 2021 period that was earlier expected.

While EU negotiators are yet to open talks on the future relationship, one senior source told the Guardian that they are likely to demand Britain remain in the common fisheries policy during the period, as the quotas apply to the calendar year – making a December 2020 exit a more practical solution.

The bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has also suggested the end of the transition period coincide with the end of the EU’s financial period – which concludes in 2020.

UK ministers have this week said they hope to tie up the terms of a Brexit transition agreement by the end of this year.

Jean-Claude Piris, former head of the European council’s legal service, said such a restriction could suit both parties.

“The transition period may be of any length both parties would agree in the article 50 agreement,” he said.

“I think this [20 months] would not be enough for British interests, but they have taken too much time to request such a period, while it is obvious they badly need it.”

A UK government spokesman said: “The prime minister proposed a strictly time-limited implementation period of around two years in her Florence speech and was clear in her article 50 letter that agreeing this principle early in the process would help minimise unnecessary disruption.

"This will require negotiation, and we are ready to begin that conversation as soon as the EU are.”

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