Theresa May says she has a ‘degree of confidence’ EU trade talks will begin in December
Theresa May has said she believes the second phase of Brexit talks on the future trade relationship between the UK and EU can begin in December.
The Prime Minister insisted “important progress” had been made at last week’s European Council summit, despite having failed to shore up agreement on “phase one” issues around citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the divorce bill.
The Council last week said preparations were underway for the second phase to commence in December, but that the initial issues were yet to be sealed.
Addressing the Commons today, Mrs May said the issues were close to being agreed and that European leaders had told her that there was a new “momentum” to talks.
She also confirmed Brexit Secretary David Davis' claim that there could be no post-Brexit transition agreement unless both sides had agreed a permanent trade deal.
On the issue of progressing to the second phase of talks she told MPs: “We haven’t reached a final agreement but it’s going to happen. I have a degree of confidence that we will be able to get to the point of sufficient progress by December.
“After the Florence speech there is a new momentum. The Florence speech was a step forward and there should be a positive response to the willingness to work on the interim period and there has been established, a momentum.
“Now as it happens, those aren’t my words, they’re the words of Chancellor Merkel, the Taoiseach, the Swedish prime minister, the Italian prime minister, the Polish prime minister and the Danish prime minister… so progress was indeed made.”
Mrs May also repeated her claim that progress on agreeing the future rights of EU citizens in the UK was in “touching distance” while both parties had agreed there would be no “physical infrastructure” on the Irish border.
Jeremy Corbyn responded saying he had a "very worrying sense of Groundhog Day", suggesting the government was "no clearer" than before the Prime Minister's meeting with the EU27 leaders in Brussels last week.
"Only two weeks ago she told this house her speech in Florence had put momentum into the Article 50 negotiations, and that an agreement on phase one of these talks was in touching distance," the Labour leader said.
“Well here we are again after another round of talks and we’re still no clearer as to when negotiations on whether Britain’s with our trading partner will actually begin; and still no clearer on what she’s agreed to in phase one of these talks.
The Prime Minister also faced criticism from Labour's Yvette Cooper, after admitting the UK would not enter into a transition deal in the event of a 'no deal' outcome.
Mrs May said an implementation period is about "adjusting to the future relationship".
She added: "That’s the basis on which I’ve put it forward to the European Union and that’s the basis in which I’ll be negotiating an agreement on it.”
However the Home Affairs Committee chair branded her assertion "shocking" and tweeted that the outcome would not allow business the time to adapt.