U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond and Trade Minister Liam Fox agreed on the need for a “time-limited interim period” to soften Brexit’s effects, signaling a truce in a protracted dispute over how Britain should leave the European Union.
After weeks of cabinet infighting and damaging headlines, Hammond — accused by Brexit hardliners of trying to water down attempts to break free of the EU after Brexit — and hard Brexit advocate Fox appeared to have reconciled their differences in a joint article for the Sunday Telegraph.
“We believe a time-limited interim period will be important to further our national interest and give business greater certainty — but it cannot be indefinite; it cannot be a back door to staying in the EU,” the ministers wrote.
Hammond and Fox stated that during the transition period, “our borders must continue to operate smoothly; goods bought on the internet must still cross borders; businesses must still be able to supply their customers across the EU and our innovative, world-leading companies must be able to hire the talent they need, including from within the EU.”
Hammond previously argued that any Brexit deal should see little change on matters such as immigration due to threats to the labor market and spillover effects on the economy. Fox, meanwhile, argued that unregulated free movement of labor post-Brexit would “not keep faith” with the EU referendum result, forcing No. 10 to clarify that freedom of movement would end by 2019.
The joint article comes as May’s government prepares to publish three papers promising to lay the ground for the next round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels at the end of August.
The papers will set out the U.K.’s plan for the post-Brexit border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, address the availability of goods for the EU and the U.K. and access to official documents following the U.K.’s withdrawal.
“Once the interim period is over, we want a permanent, treaty-based arrangement between the U.K. and the EU which supports the closest possible relationship with the European Union, retaining close ties of security, trade and commerce,” Hammond and Fox said.
They also underlined that Britain would operate outside the single market and customs union after Brexit.
“We will leave the customs union and be free to negotiate the best trade deals around the world as an independent, open, trading nation,” the ministers said, adding that the government was committed to make sure there “will not be a cliff-edge when we leave the EU in just over 20 months’ time.”