BRUSSELS bosses last night vowed to play hardball on the question of a Brexit transition deal in a blow to Theresa May.
The EU is set to limit the length of any transition to 20 months – less than the two years requested by Mrs May and her ministers.
Getty Images – Getty Theresa May wants a two-year transition period after Brexit
The British Government want a two-year interim period after we leave the EU in March 2019 to plan for the implementation of a free trade agreement.
But EU sources told the Guardian they want the transition to end after 20 months, leading to a clean break at the end of 2020.
Top negotiator Michel Barnier said earlier this week: “To my mind, it makes sense that it covers the financial period, so until 2020.”
The row could hinder Mrs May’s hopes of reaching a speedy agreement on the transition deal.
AFP Michel Barnier has hinted the transition period could be limited to 20 months
Businesses are keen to get quick confirmation that nothing will change immediately after we quit the EU so they can start planning for the future.
But Eurocrats’ stance could attract unlikely support from Brexiteers who want to limit the length of a transition deal.
Jacob Rees-Mogg recently urged Mrs May to ensure that we do not remain under the jurisdiction of European courts during any transition.
And Environment Secretary Michael Gove wants to change rules on fishing from March 2019.
Steve Back Michael Gove is keen to change fishing laws during the transition
Former EU legal boss Jean-Claude Piris told the Guardian that Brussels has the power to enforce a shorter transition.
He said: “I think this would not be enough for British interests, but they have taken too much time to request such a period, while it is obvious they badly need it.”
A Government spokesman said: “The Prime Minister proposed a strictly time-limited implementation period of around two years in her Florence speech and was clear in her Article 50 letter that agreeing this principle early in the process would help minimise unnecessary disruption.
“This will require negotiation, and we are ready to begin that conversation as soon as the EU are.”