Liam Fox rejects Philip Hammond’s claim of agreement on Brexit transitional deal
Liam Fox has sparked a fresh Cabinet split after he rejected Philip Hammond’s claim that ministers had agreed on the UK having a transitional deal with the EU.
The International Trade Secretary also said the continuation of free movement after 2019 would “not keep faith” with the referendum result.
Philip Hammond had said there was a “broad acceptance” among Cabinet ministers that an interim deal would be needed to smooth the exit process, and suggested it could be in place until 2022.
However Dr Fox rejected the notion there was agreement among Cabinet for the period.
“If there have been discussions on that, I have not been party to them,” he told the Sunday Times. “I have not been involved in any discussion on that, nor have I signified my agreement to anything like that.
“I am very happy to discuss whatever transitional arrangements and whatever implementation agreement we might want, but that has to be an agreement by the Cabinet. It can’t just be made by an individual or any group within the Cabinet.”
He added : “We made it clear that control of our own borders was one of the elements we wanted in the referendum, and unregulated free movement would seem to me not to keep faith with that decision.”
Last night former Brexit minister David Jones threw his weight behind Dr Fox’s comments.
He said it would be “alarming” for the public if Britain were to delay trade deals because of a transitional deal.
“The EU is extremely concerned about the financial impact of the British departure because it has made all sorts of plans on the back of British membership.
“We are its second-biggest net contributor and it will be concerned that we would potentially present it with a financial cliff edge; I think that’s the strength of our hand and we shouldn’t be afraid to play it.”
Mr Hammond claimed on Friday the transition period between the UK and the EU after Brexit should continue for no longer than three years after the withdrawal date.
“I think there’s a broad consensus that this process has to be completed by the scheduled time of the next general election, which is in June 2022.
“So a period of at the most three years in order to put these new arrangements in place and move us on a steady path without cliff edges from where we are today to the new long term relationship with the European Union.”
And he said although Britain would be able to “get started” on striking free trade deals around the world after Brexit, those deals may have to be put on ice until the transitional time is over.
“It may be that during that period we don’t bring those new agreements into force - but it will take us time anyway to negotiate them,” Mr Hammond said.