POLITICS

Theresa May Asks EU To Give UK Two-Year Transition Period After Brexit

Prime minister asks for 'time limited' deal.

22/09/2017 15:27 BST | Updated 22/09/2017 17:24 BST

Theresa May has confirmed she wants the UK be given a two-year transition period after it leaves EU.

Under her plan, EU citizens would keep their right to move freely to the UK during that time but they would have to register their presence.

In a high profile speech in Florence on Friday afternoon, the prime minister said she wanted existing EU market access rules to be maintained during this period.

“We are very clear the transitional period will be time limited and we will leave by March 2019,” she said.

“During the implementation period access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms.”

Brexit talks, which begin again on Monday, have stalled amid concerns of a lack of progress on issues including how much money Britain will pay when it leaves and the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

May also confirmed the UK is prepared to pay a substantial amount of money, perhaps 20bn euros, to the EU during the transition period.

The EU is concerned it faces a huge black hole in its existing budget caused by Britain’s decision to leave the bloc.

“The UK will honour commitments we have made during the period of our membership,” she said.

May also moved to reassure EU citizens living in Britain with a promise to write any guarantee of their rights post-Brexit into UK law.

The prime minister said British courts would “take into account” European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgements when dealing with disputes over EU nationals living in the UK.

She told EU citizens living in Britain: “We want you to stay, we value you, and we value your contribution to our national life. I’m clear the guarantee I’m giving on your rights is real.”

May also said the UK wanted to sign a new “unprecedented” security treaty with the EU to ensure cooperation after Brexit. 

“The UK is unconditionally committed to maintaining European security,” she said.

Jeremy Corbyn said May’s speech did not clear up what the UK’slong term relationship with the EU would look like.

“The only advance seems to be that the prime minister has listened to Labour and faced up to the reality that Britain needs a transition on the same basic terms to provide stability for businesses and workers,” he said.

“That’s because Theresa May and her Conservative cabinet colleagues are spending more time negotiating with each other rather than with the EU.

“The Tories have made clear they want to use Brexit to deregulate and cut taxes for the wealthy. Labour wants a Jobs-First Brexit that uses powers returned from Brussels to invest and upgrade Britain’s economy.”

PA Wire/PA Images

Speaking in front of a slogan that read “shared history, shared challenges, shared future”, May said a good Brexit deal was vital for the EU as well as for the UK.

“As we meet here today, in this city of creativity and rebirth, let us open our minds to the possible to a new era of cooperation and partnership between UK and EU and to a stronger, fairer, more prosperous future for us all,” she said.

“For that is the prize if we get this negotiation right. A sovereign UK and a confident EU. Both free to chart their own course. A new alliance that can stand strongly together in the world. That is the goal, towards which we must work.”

May’s speech came after a week of speculation that Boris Johnson could quit as foreign secretary in protest at her approach to Brexit.

Following her address, Johnson tweeted his support.

The foreign secretary had used a 4,000 word article in The Daily Telegraph to pressure the prime minister into sticking to a so-called hard Brexit.

However after a marathon two-and-half hour session of the Cabinet on Thursday, Johnson and Chancellor Philip Hammond – who have been at loggerheads all summer over Brexit – left No.10 together in an apparent show of unity.

Italian State Secretary For European Affairs Sandro Gozi told HuffPost Italy it was a “useful speech that makes steps forward on citizens rights and jurisdiction of the court of justice, good on the transition period that might help the financial negotiations, on which there’s finally an opening.

“The future hope of a strong ambitious partnership on commerce and security is shared by us. Now let’s see how this speech will translate in the negotiations next week.”