Brexit: Theresa May risks Tory row after suggesting UK may still be tied to EU after 2019

Conservatives expect UK to have clean break from EU within three years, following Article 50 negotiations

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Monday 21 November 2016 13:49 GMT
Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May

Theresa May has risked angering Tory Brexiteers after indicating that the UK may not have a clean break from the European Union, even after her planned 2019 target departure date.

The Prime Minister signalled that officials are exploring a potential ‘transitional deal’ which could see the UK retain elements of its current relations with the EU after Brexit, while a new trade agreement is hammered out.

Ms May first hinted at a transitional deal after addressing business groups today, who have raised concerns about the uncertainty brought about by a sudden change in the UK’s relationship with Europe.

May: People don't want a 'cliff edge'

She told the audience at the Confederation of British Industry: "People do not want a cliff edge."

Questioned over whether Ms May’s comments to the CBI meant a ‘transitional deal’, a Downing Street spokesperson said: "There are a whole range of issues that are being worked through as we prepare for negotiations, with a focus on how we get the best deal for the UK."

Asked specifically if one of the issues is a transitional deal, the spokesperson said: "There’s a whole range of work going on."

After initially highlighting that it is possible for Brexit to be delayed beyond 2019, the spokesperson said the Government would "not be seeking to extend the Article 50 process".

None-the-less, a post-Brexit transitional deal that may see some single market access retained while trade negotiations continue, could anger Conservative eurosceptics gunning for the cleanest possible break from the EU in 2019.

Richard Tice, co-chair of pro-Brexit pressure group Leave Means Leave, said: "A transitional deal will fuel more uncertainty and leave Britain in limbo.

"British voters have made it clear that they want to leave the EU and the Government must deliver on this in full and at the soonest opportunity – two years after triggering Article 50, or sooner if the EU fails to negotiate."

But talk of a transitional deal was welcomed by Pat McFadden MP, leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign.

He said: "It is good that the Prime Minister understands the dangers of a cliff edge for the economy during the Brexit negotiations.

"Some within her party seem to be pushing for a hard Brexit whatever the economic consequences. However, without a transitional agreement between leaving and agreeing the future arrangements, the danger is that the UK would fall out of the single market and customs union, incurring tariffs for our manufacturing industry, losing passporting rights for our financial services, and posing threats to our agriculture. None of that is good for jobs or living standards."

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in