Philip Hammond and Liam Fox unite to pledge UK will not stay in EU by the 'back door'

Posted On: 
13th August 2017

Philip Hammond and Liam Fox have united to declare that the UK will seek a transition deal with the EU but will not stay in the bloc "by the back door".

Philip Hammond and Liam Fox at the Conservatives' 2017 manifesto launch
PA Images

The Chancellor and International Trade Secretary said they were in agreement that a transition deal would further Britain's “national interest and give business greater certainty” – but insisted it would not derail Brexit.

The joint pledge, published in the Sunday Telegraph, marks a clear move to present a united front following weeks of reports of warring factions in the Cabinet.

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Mr Hammond, who backed Remain before last year's referendum, previously rattled colleagues after he suggested that a deal to minimise changes to the UK’s trading relationship could be in place with the EU for four years after Brexit.

The staunchly pro-Brexit Trade Secretary hit back days later demanding that any transition period would end before the next general election in 2022.

Writing in the paper however, Mr Hammond and Mr Fox confirmed the UK will leave both the customs union and the single market when it exits the EU in March 2019.

“We will leave the customs union and be free to negotiate the best trade deals around the world as an independent, open, trading nation,” they wrote.

“We will leave the single market, because there was a vote for change on June 23rd and that is what we will deliver.

“We want our economy to remain strong and vibrant through this period of change. That means businesses need to have confidence that there will not be a cliff-edge when we leave the EU in just over twenty months’ time.

“That is why we believe a time-limited interim period will be important to further our national interest and give business greater certainty – but it cannot be indefinite; it cannot be a back door to staying in the EU.

“And it must ensure a smooth and predictable pathway for businesses and citizens alike. We are both clear that during this period the UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union and will be a ‘third-country’ not party to EU treaties.”

Both ministers agreed that while Britain would seek the “closest possible” relationship with the EU, the current rules would stay in place to avoid a “cliff edge” for business.

“We are also clear that during this period our borders must continue to operate smoothly; goods bought on the internet must still cross borders; businesses must still be able to supply their customers across the EU and our innovative, world-leading companies must be able to hire the talent they need, including from within the EU.

"Once the interim period is over, we want a permanent, treaty-based arrangement between the UK and the EU which supports the closest possible relationship with the European Union, retaining close ties of security, trade and commerce."

The ministers' intervention comes ahead of the publication of a series of papers on the UK’s Brexit position, including one this week covering what will happen to the Irish border after Brexit.

The Telegraph reports that the Prime Minister is set to offer free movement between Britain and Ireland in a bid to settle what has proven an early challenge for the UK’s Brexit team.