London (September 23, 2017): British Prime Minister Theresa May said there should be a transition period of about two years after Brexit during which trade should be continue on current terms and conditions.
She sought to start Brexit negotiations on Friday, proposing to delay the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU with a two-year transition period.
In return for continued access to the EU single market, the UK would honor its budget commitments of about 10 billion euros (about $12 billion) year, remain bound by EU laws and accept continued immigration from Europe.
May said the transition should be “strictly time-limited” and replaced as soon as practicable by a bespoke, “creative” partnership that would respect the result of last year’s EU referendum.
UK and EU leaders share a “profound sense of responsibility” to make the process work “smoothly and sensibly” for this and future generations, she said.
“The eyes of the world are on us, but if we can be imaginative and creative about the way we establish this new relationship, if we can proceed on the basis of trust in each other, I believe we can be optimistic about the future we can build for the United Kingdom and for the European Union,” she said.
May conceded that the Britain would not be ready to implement a Brexit deal when the UK formally leaves the EU in March 2019. A transition period would also be required for the UK to conclude a trade deal with the EU.
The Prime Minister made it clear that the UK would not shirk its financial obligations during the transition period. “I do not want our partners to fear that they will need to pay more or receive less over the remainder of the current budget plan as a result of our decision to leave,” she said.
For the first time, May said that the UK would make ongoing payments to the EU even after the transition period, to cover joint programs in areas like security, science and culture. The UK would make an “ongoing contribution to cover our fair share of the costs involved,” May sad.
May rejected an off-the-shelf post-Brexit deal like the close relationship enjoyed by Norway within the European Economic Area or the detailed trade arrangement recently concluded with Canada. Such a choice was “stark and unimaginative,” May said, adding that Britain and the EU could do “so much better.”
“European Economic Area membership would mean the UK having to adopt at home — automatically and in their entirety — new EU rules. Rules over which, in future, we will have little influence and no vote,” she said. But a Canadian-style trade deal would “represent such a restriction on our mutual market access that it would benefit neither of our economies.”
May said she aimed to make sure that EU citizens living in the UK — including 600,000 Italians — felt appreciated. “We want you to stay, we value you, and we thank you for your contribution to our national life,” she said.