Hammond sees Brexit transition taking years, contradicting colleague Fox

LONDON • Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said transitional arrangements for Britain leaving the European Union (EU) are likely to last a couple of years, rather than the couple of months suggested by his Cabinet colleague, Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

“It depends how long we need to put in place new customs systems, new migration systems; these things can’t be magicked up overnight,” Hammond said on BBC Television’s “Andrew Marr Show” yesterday. “We’re not going to be talking a couple of months, we are going to be talking a couple of years.”

Hammond is a leading advocate in UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet for a so-called soft Brexit, in contrast to campaigners for a clean break such as Fox.

A Sunday Times newspaper story on the Cabinet divisions yesterday was illustrated by an image of Hammond and two leading Brexit advocates — Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis — aiming pistols at each other.

Even so, Hammond said ministers are “coming much closer together on issues like transition”, ahead of the next round of talks with the EU starting today in Brussels.

“I think you’ll find the Cabinet rallying around a position that maximises our negotiating leverage and gets the best possible decision,” he said on the BBC. “We’ve got to do this in a way that meets the concerns and requirements of both people who want a softer version of Brexit and those who campaigned hard to leave the EU.” — Bloomberg