Government urged to have clear interim 'game plan' after Brexit

The government has been urged to draw up a clear interim “game plan” to carry on trading with the European Union after Brexit, while they negotiate a long-term trade deal, by a committee of peers.

The House of Lords EU Internal Market and External Affairs Sub-committees said transitional arrangements would safeguard UK jobs and trade while negotiations on a final trade settlement continued.

In their report, they added that it was unlikely the government would be able to achieve the “bespoke” agreement promised by Prime Minister Theresa May by 2019 under Article 50.

Negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU would provide the greatest flexibility in reaching a bespoke deal, which could potentially be combined with a wider association agreement on future UK-EU co-operation after Brexit, the report said.

However, it warned it would not be possible to reach such a comprehensive deal within two years and the UK would be forced to fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules – with “significant” tariffs for British exporters – unless there were transitional arrangements in place.

On Monday, Chancellor Philip Hammond warned the UK’s new relationship with the EU may not be finalised by the Brexit deadline.

Even if ministers did eventually strike a FTA, the committees said they saw “no evidence” the UK would be able to secure the same level of access to the EU single market it currently enjoys as an EU member.

The degree of access the government would be able to achieve could depend in part on the extent to which it was willing to accept EU law.

Chairman of the EU Internal Market Sub-committee, Lord Whitty, said: “Trade-offs will need to be made in whatever trading framework we eventually agree.

“The Government is committed to curbing the free movement of people and the reach of the European Court of Justice. This is incompatible with full single market membership.

“While an FTA would provide the greatest flexibility, and no commitment to freedom of movement, there is no evidence that it could provide trade on terms equivalent to membership of the single market.”

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