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Fox and Hammond

Philip Hammond and Liam Fox Call for Post-Brexit Transition Period

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As Brexit negotiations seem to drive opposing sides farther apart, the UK’s Chancellor and International Trade Secretary are showing unity by coming out together in favour of a transition period after Brexit. It’s a far cry from their previously opposing views and one that is trying to push Brexit talks to a middle ground.

Limited Transition Period

Chancellor Philip Hammond and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, previously on rival sides of Theresa May’s cabinet, published a joint article in the Sunday Telegraph elaborating on their idea of a transition period that they say wouldn’t be indefinite or a “back door” to stay in the EU. According to their statement, the UK will definitely leave the customs union and single market when it exits the EU in 2019. However, they go on to say that a limited transition period would “further our national interest and give business greater certainty” whilst promising that the transition could not stop Brexit.

life after brexit

“We are both clear that during this period the UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union and will be a ‘third-country’ not party to EU treaties,” they say, noting that in the days and weeks after Brexit, businesses must still be able to operate and move goods to customers across the EU.

“We want our economy to remain strong and vibrant through this period of change.

That means businesses need to have confidence that there will not be a cliff-edge when we leave the EU in just over 20 months’ time,” they say.

The idea of a transition period comes down to ensuring that there isn’t a dramatic cut off of benefits and that the transition from being in the EU to being on its own can run smoothly for businesses and trade operations. Once the interim period is over, the pair is pushing for a treaty-based arrangement between the UK and the EU to continue close ties in security, trade, and commerce.

Divided Response

brexit negotiations

As is to be expected on such a divisive topic, the article has drawn a variety of responses from both sides.

According to Liberal Democrats, the article showed that Hammond had been brought back in line.

“What this is about is getting Philip Hammond back on track with a hard Brexit program,” said Tom Brake, the party’s foreign affairs spokesman. “What we don’t know from this letter is exactly how this is going to work. It’s also not clear how long the transition period is going to be.”

Labor MP Ben Bradshaw warned against the duo’s plan to leave the single market and customs union simultaneously, saying that it would be a “dreadful mistake for the future of our economy, for jobs and prosperity in Britain.”

The letter also shows unity within May’s cabinet—Hammond has long supported a softer Brexit, while Fox favored a hard Brexit. The two had previously been at odds over the government’s strategy to exit the EU, and the article shows a stark contrast from Fox’s previous position. Their article is part of a series of letters being published by various ministers to discuss aspects of the Brexit negotiations, ranging from border security to labor issues. According to many, the goal of this letter is partly to encourage other ministers to unify with their rivals.

However, many politicians see right through the plan. According to Stephen Gethins of the SNP, the letter doesn’t hide the fact that there are deep divisions within the cabinet and that there isn’t a solid plan more than a year after the Brexit vote.

Hammond’s and Fox’s letter could set the stage for a new phase of negotiations, or it could soon be forgotten. Brexit talks are scheduled to begin again at the end of August, which is when we’ll see if the talk of unity and a strong economic plan can actually be put into action.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Alvexo on the matter.