Theresa May promises to negotiate a 'rapid' Brexit transition deal

Theresa MayLeon Neal / GettyTheresa May delivered her Brexit update to MPs
  • Prime Minister seeks a “rapid” Brexit transition of around two years.
  • Theresa May says any transition would mirror current trading rules.
  • However, she insists Britain will seek to negotiate new trade deals during transition.
  • New immigrants will have to register with the Home Office.
LONDON – Theresa May has promised MPs she will make “rapid” progress on a Brexit transition deal, as she set out the UK government’s plans for the next phase of Brexit negotiations.

Brexit negotiations moved onto their second phase last Friday after the EU council voted that there had been sufficient progress on negotiating Britain’s Brexit divorce deal.

The prime minister said the government would quickly seek to negotiate a two-year transition deal, on the same trade and customs terms as the UK currently enjoys with Europe,” adding that talks would begin “very soon”.

May told MPs that last week’s agreement pointed to the “shared desire of the EU and the UK to make rapid progress on an implementation period.”

She said that doing so would “help give certainty to employers and families that we are going to deliver a smooth Brexit.”

The prime minister insisted that while the UK would leave the Customs Union and single market in 2019.

“As I proposed in Florence, during this strictly time-limited implementation period which we will now begin to negotiate, we would not be in the Single Market or the Customs Union, as we will have left the European Union,” she said.

However, she added that Britain will still continue to follow the rules of the single market and customs union throughout that period.

“But we would propose that our access to one another’s markets would continue as now, while we prepare and implement the new processes and new systems that will underpin our future partnership.”

She also confirmed the UK would pay a Brexit “divorce bill” of around £40 billion.

Watch May promise new Brexit trade deals


While May’s speech was welcomed by Remain-campaigning Conservative MP Anna Soubry, it received a stinging rebuke from leading Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who warned that the prime minister’s planned transition deal would leave the UK as a “a vassal state, a colony, a serf.”

Rees-Mogg called on the prime minister to instead mimic the “mettle” of her predecessor Margaret Thatcher and push for a clean break with the EU.

He was backed by Conservative MP Peter Bone who called on May to scrap her plans to pay the Brexit “divorce bill” to the EU, and urged her to rule out freedom of movement continuing after Brexit.

New immigration rules

The prime minister indicated that freedom of movement wilk continue throughout any Brexit transition. However, she said said that new arrivals would have to register with the Home Office “as preparation for our future immigration system.”

She also insisted that Britain would seek to sign new trade deals during any Brexit transition, despite EU rules forbidding any new trade deals coming into force while Britain remains a member.

“We will prepare for our future independent trade policy by negotiating – and where possible signing – trade deals with third countries, which could come into force after the conclusion of the implementation period,” she said.

The prime minister also downplayed reports that the government plans to scrap the Working Time Directive – the EU rules which limits the amount of hours citizens can work – saying that she intended to “maintain workers’ rights and enhance workers’ rights.”

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