LONDON — Philip Hammond has claimed that the Brexit transition deal Britain negotiates with the European Union will look “very similar” to EU membership.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, the Chancellor insisted Britain will leave the single market and customs union on the day the Article 50 process expires, but said Britain and the EU will continue to have close links for up to three years beyond March 2019.
The Cabinet has reportedly reached an agreement that there must be a transitional period between Britain dropping out of the EU and any new long-term trade relationship with the 28-nation officially coming into effect, in order to prevent what Hammond describes as a “cliff-edge” Brexit.
The Chancellor told BBC Radio 4 today that this transitional arrangement will be similar to EU membership in numerous ways and will not be a major departure from Britain’s current relationship with the 28-nation bloc.
“On the first day after we leave the European Union, of course, many things will look similar because that’s the starting point,” he told the Today programme.
“I would hope we are able to agree a transition that in the immediate aftermath of leaving the European Union, goods will continue to flow across the border between the UK and the EU in much the same way as they do now.
“It is our aspiration that in the agreement we negotiate for the long-term that we will be able to continue trading in with the European Union with what the prime minister has described as near as possible frictionless borders.”
He accepted that during this transitional period Britain may not be able to negotiate new free trade deals with countries outside the European Union, despite informal talks already taking place with countries like the US.
“We recognise that it will take some time for us to negotiate new trade deals with countries. The important point is that we are able to get started on that process. During a transition deal we would hope to have continued access to the European market. It may be that during that period we don’t bring those new agreements into force,” he said.
The Chancellor added that he expects a transition arrangement to last no longer than three years. If this is the case, then Britain may not be able to officially strike post-Brexit free trade deals with other countries until the year 2022.
New immigration rules will take “some time”
Hammond insisted the free movement of people will come to an end in March 2019 but went on to admit that he expects Britain to remain open to EU citizens. “We have been clear that it will be some time before we can introduce full migration controls between the UK and the European Union. That’s not a matter of political choice — it’s a matter of fact. We have to put in place quite a lot of new infrastructure. We’ll need new people, new IT systems, and the home secretary and prime minister have been clear that this is going to take a while to deliver,” the Chancellor said.
His comments echoed a letter Home Secretary Amber Rudd has this week sent to the migration committee in which she says a new immigration model will not be ready to be introduced upon leaving Britain the European Union.
“In future, we will be able to apply different immigration rules and requirements according to economic and social needs, and reflecting our future deep and special partnership with the EU, including on any implementation arrangements following the UK’s departure. We do not envisage moving to that future system in a single step. It will be in the interests of migrants, employers and the authorities to have a predictable process which moves gradually from free movement to a new arrangement,” Rudd said in a letter to the Migration Advisory Committee.
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