LONDON — Brexit secretary David Davis today insisted that a comprehensive trade deal between the UK and the EU could be signed in just two years, despite numerous warnings that it could take up to a decade.
Davis said that while the EU is “notoriously slow” at doing deals he was confident that his own deal would be completed within the period of the two-year window allowed by the triggering of Article 50.
“The deal I want to be over and done with in two years,” he told LBC’s Nick Ferrari.
“People say ‘oh no you can’t do that and it will take 10 years.’ No it won’t.”
The UK’s former EU ambassador, Sir Ivan Rogers, privately warned the government last year that negotiations with the 27 other EU countries could take up to 10 years to finalise and may still fail. That’s because any UK-EU trade deal will likely have to be signed off not just by Brussels, but by every national and regional parliament in the EU.
This is why previous international trade deals with the EU have been long and troubled. Canada’s deal with the EU (CETA) took seven years and was almost scuppered when the region of Wallonia in Belgium refused to accept it. It is worth nothing that CETA was primarily based on goods, whereas the UK’s deal will involve both goods and services.
However, Davis today insisted that our current EU membership would make a deal with the EU much easier to complete.
“The thing that takes a lot of time is getting all the product standards the same,” he told Radio 4. “Well we’re already there [because of our EU membership].”
While insisting that a deal could be signed in just two years, he admitted that there would be a longer transitional period for “implementation.”
“We accept there may be an implementation period thereafter,” he said, before adding: “It won’t be a long time. A year or two.”
Davis has previously sought to downplay the idea of a transitional Brexit deal. The Brexit secretary told a meeting of city figures last year that he was “not really interested” in a transitional deal, but later changed his position to say that he would accept one “if necessary.”
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