UK expects deal with EU on Brexit transition period next week

LONDON • Brexit Secretary David Davis predicted a deal on a transition period when Britain leaves the European Union (EU) will be finalised next week, as he prepares to meet his counterpart Michel Barnier in Brussels on Monday.

Davis reinforced the sense of optimism in the government that negotiations have progressed smoothly in recent days, with talks between UK and EU officials scheduled to continue over the weekend. Businesses said it’s crucial to get a transition deal done now to give them time to plan, and avoid having to move jobs and investment elsewhere.

Davis said he’s aiming for a double agreement on turning the draft exit terms into a legal text, and on reaching a “crucial” deal on the transitional period, at the summit of EU leaders starting on March 22. “We are confident that both of these aims are in reach,” he told Parliament yesterday.

The transition will extend the terms of the UK’s single market and customs union membership beyond exit day on March 29, 2019. This bridging period is likely to expire at the end of 2020 — as the EU stipulated — even though the UK suggested it could last longer.

The March 22 European summit is due to sign off on these draft deals, and set out the bloc’s negotiating position for the future free-trade accord with the UK. Davis urged the EU to make sure the stance it takes on trade is “sufficiently flexible” to allow the bloc to “think creatively” about the relationship it will have with the UK.

Davis said “at least half” of the negotiating efforts the British government has made in the last three months has been aimed at ensuring that the EU takes a “flexible, open and broad” approach to its negotiating guidelines on the future trade terms.

Davis revealed that this effort has been directed at convincing the 27 other individual member states, rather than the European Commission. — Bloomberg