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Brexit deal not ‘back door’ to staying in EU: Ministers

Two key cabinet members in Britain say a post-Brexit transition would not be a “back door” to continued membership in the European Union.

“There will not be a cliff-edge” after the UK leaves the EU, said Finance Minister Philip Hammond, who favors a softer, pro-business Brexit, and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, a hardline supporter of Brexit.

In an article published by The Sunday Telegraph, the two said any transition period would be “time-limited,” and that Britain would not have access to the European single market or the customs union after it leaves the bloc.

“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 wrote.

“That is why 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.”

“We are both clear that during this period the UK will be outside the customs union and will be a ‘third country’, not a party to EU treaties.”

The joint comments by Hammond and Fox came after weeks of clashes over the UK’s future outside the bloc.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU at the end of March 2019 after nearly 52 percent of Britons opted to leave the bloc during the EU referendum in June last year.

Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered the Brexit process on March 29 and divorce negotiations officially began on June 19.

During their second round of talks held in July, the EU and UK Brexit teams failed to reach an agreement on 22 of the 44 issues under negotiation.

Brexit Minister David Davis (L) and EU Chief Negotiator in charge of Brexit negotiations Michel Barnier seen at a press conference at the EU Commission Headquarters in Brussels, on July 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

In what was due to be published this week, British government ministers planned to set out their aims for the Brexit talks.

Among the details is one covering the difficult issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland once Britain leaves the EU.

Also, details of future arrangements including Britain’s proposals for a customs agreement with the EU will be released prior to a meeting of the European Council in Brussels in October.

Britain’s Brexit Secretary David Davis is due to hold a third round of talks with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels at the end of August.

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