Michel Barnier: Brexit transition will be three months shorter than Theresa May suggested
The Brexit transition period must last for 21 months and not the two years suggested by Theresa May, top Brussels negotiator Michel Barnier said today.
The Frenchman said the so-called implementation period would “logically” last until 30 December 2020 to keep within EU budget timetables.
In her landmark Florence speech in September Theresa May said she wanted a “strictly time-limited period” of “around two years”.
That would have seen the transition phase run until 30 March, 2021 at the latest.
But Mr Barnier told reporters in Brussels today: “It should be of a short and specific duration.
“The European Commission’s position is that this would run logically to the 31 December 2020 because that is also the duration of the current multi-annual financial framework.”
He said during the transition the UK would continue to be bound by the rules of the European internal market and customs union but would have no say over any rule changes.
“During the transition period the UK will keep all of the advantages but also all the obligations and duties of the single market, customs union and common policies,” he said.
He said the four freedoms of labour, goods, services and capital would “remain indivisible” during the transition.
That appears to be at odds with the Prime Minister's address to MPs on Monday, when she said the UK "would not be in the single market or the customs union" during the transition period.
Mr Barnier also said any future trade deal between the UK and EU would be formed “along the same lines” of recent deals struck with Canada, South Korea and Japan.
But he said no trade deal would provide “privileged access” for financial services – as the UK has demanded.
Elsewhere, Mr Barnier said the UK would no longer be covered by the approximately 750 international agreements held by the EU during the transition and will have to replicated them all itself.
He also warned that there would be no transition without a withdrawal agreement, adding: "These things go hand in hand."
Eloise Todd, the CEO of pro-EU group Best for Britain, said: "Rather than taking back control, the entire Brexit exercise means losing power, losing money and losing control.
“It is a masterclass in government incompetence and a shambles.
"At this time of year you expect only to see donkeys in the nativity play, not sat round the Cabinet table."