Brussels: British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that the UK’s transition out of the EU can be extended by “a matter of months” in a bid to break the deadlock in talks.
May is understood to have raised the possibility of a longer period in meetings with EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday, but Downing Street was previously tight-lipped about the exchanges, which were likely to enrage Tory eurosceptics.
The British leader had urged her 27 European counterparts to give ground and end the current Brexit deadlock.
Arriving at the second day of the European Council summit here, May told reporters on Thursday that the option had emerged to extend the controversial period, but that it would only be for “a matter of months”, the BBC reported.
The UK leaves the EU in March and the current plan is for a transition period to finish at the end of 2020.
The BBC reported an EU source as saying that there would have to be “financial implications” if the UK did extend the transition period. It came after the summit of EU leaders failed to make decisive progress in reaching an agreement.
During the transition period, practically nothing would change for the UK — Britain would continue to implement all EU laws, stay in the single market and customs union and under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
The UK would however not be represented in EU institutions like the Parliament, Council and Commission and would therefore have no say in drawing up the rules.
“A further idea that has emerged — and it is an idea at this stage — is to create an option to extend the implementation period for a matter of months – and it would only be for a matter of months.
“But the point is that this is not expected to be used, because we are working to ensure that we have that future relationship in place by the end of December 2020,” the Prime Minister said.
According to the Independent, most trade experts and people in Brussels say the current 21-month period will realistically not be enough time to negotiate a full free trade agreement between the UK and EU, and that an extension is inevitable.
If the transition expires before a new trade deal is ready the UK would yet again face the prospect of a no-deal.
The transition period would only come into effect if the UK negotiates a withdrawal agreement with the EU before it leaves. Otherwise a no-deal occurs on March 29, 2019.
May requested a transition period of “around two years” in her Florence speech in 2017 and was granted 21 months by the EU.