Davis backs EU proposals on managing UK’s Brexit transition
Poll shows surge in numbers who would like second referendum once deal is done
Britain’s secretary of state for Brexit David Davis takes a trip along the River Tees after delivering a speech outlining the UK’s ambitions for an implementation period after Brexit, in Teesside, northwest England, today. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/AFP/Getty Images
The transition, or “implementation period”, as Mr Davis called it, will see the UK leave the EU in 2019, but retain all the rights and obligations of membership for a further two years while an agreement on the “future relationship” is negotiated. It will not, however, have a seat at the decision-making table during that time.
In a speech to exporters in Teesport, Middlesbrough, on Friday, Mr Davis expressed confidence that the shared ground between the EU and UK on the modalities of transition would mean a political agreement could be concluded at the EU summit on March 22nd.
His speech came as the Guardian published a poll which showed a surge in the numbers of those who would like a second EU referendum once the terms of any agreement with the EU become known. Excluding “don’t knows”, a 16-point margin separated the 58 per cent favouring such a poll and the 42 per cent who oppose reopening the question.
The poll confirms a small but persistent shift in recent months towards Remain, with 51 per cent of those expressing a view saying they were now in favour of staying in the EU, a tighter margin than the 52 per cent Leave result of the June 2016 referendum.
It finds that 43 per cent of voters are worried Brexit will have a negative effect on the UK economy, while a narrow majority believe it will have a negative impact on the “British way of life”.
On Monday, 27 EU foreign ministers will meet in Brussels and agree to the “directives” governing their negotiators’ approach to the transition discussions with the UK. The text of the directives, which was confirmed by ambassadors on Wednesday, sets out clearly how they view the continuing obligations of the UK, and proposes a timeframe just short of two years – until the end of December 2020 – for the transition.
Mr Davis was not specific in his speech about the length of transition, beyond saying it would be “a strictly time-limited implementation period”.
The UK will have to get permission from countries such as South Korea or Canada to continue to avail of EU access rights to their markets during the transition period
“And we agree on the need to base this period on the existing structure of rules and regulations,” he said. However, he put down a couple of markers on the UK position which may prove problematic.
The UK will insist on its right to negotiate trade deals with third countries during the transition, although these would not come into force until the end of the period. The EU’s proposed directives suggest such negotiations will be possible with the permission of the 27.
Although Mr Davis insisted the UK would want “continued access to each other’s markets on current terms”, he did not advert to the problem that once the UK is no longer a member of the EU, trade deals negotiated by the EU with other states will no longer apply to it. The UK will have to get permission from countries such as South Korea or Canada to continue to avail of EU access rights to their markets during the transition period.
Mr Davis also insisted on the right of the UK to prepare future immigration controls with a register of those who arrive in the UK during the transition. Although he says such a register would not affect their future rights to remain in the UK, it is likely the EU will balk at any such controls on free movement.
The Brexit secretary said that, while the UK would not be inside the formal EU decision-making process during the transition period, “we will still make our voice heard ... we will have to agree a way of resolving concerns if [new EU] laws are deemed to run contrary to our interests and we have not had our say, and we will agree an appropriate process for this temporary period”.
While the EU is likely to agree to listen to UK concerns in this regard, it is most unlikely to formalise such consultations into a “process”.