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Back Down: Brussels Says UK Can Sign Trade Deals During Brexit ‘Transition Period’

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JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty

Brussels is set to back down and allow the UK to sign trade deals whilst still inside the bloc’s Single Market and Customs Union, during the agreed so-called Brexit ‘transition period’.

However, the UK is likely to only be able to implement the deals when it finally leaves the bloc after the period – the exact length of which is still unknown.

The concession will certainly offer the UK short-term benefits but could be part of the bloc’s negotiating strategy, whereby they could expect something in return, including a long-term concession from the UK.

In its published negotiating guidelines, the European Union (EU) has insisted Britain will not be able to strike trade deals “unless authorised to do so by the union”.

However, according to The Times, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, is understood to have softened significantly when speaking in private.

The bloc is also expected to drop a demand that the UK defers to Brussels at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, allowing Britain to participate “in its own right”.

This will be crucial for the nation if it wants to pursue trade deals with nations that already have deals with the EU.

The transition period is expected to last two years, beginning on March 30th, 2019, and lasting until December 31st, 2020, as suggested by Prime Minister Theresa May in her Florence speech last year.

However, Brexit secretary David Davis suggested Wednesday night that he would accept the shorter 21-month period subsequently suggested by the EU.

“I’m not bothered too much about the question of whether it is Christmas 2020 or Easter 2021,” he told BBC Newsnight, adding that securing a deal at next week’s council was “more important to me than a few months either way”.

Mrs. May recently made a significant concession to the EU by allowing uncontrolled mass migration and permanent settlement from the EU to continue during the transition period.

In a deal struck in December last year, the EU and UK said they had verbally agreed to set the cut off day of open borders as the Brexit date in 2019.

However, the EU backtracked in January this year, calling for migrants coming during the transition to be able to stay, and the Brexit co-ordinator for the European Parliament said in February that limiting migration in the transition would be “unacceptable”.

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