LONDON – Chancellor Philip Hammond and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox have attempted to quell any accusations of a divide within the government over the UK’s approach to Brexit.
Writing in a joint article in the Sunday Telegraph, two of Prime Minister Theresa May’s most senior ministers said that the UK will seek a transition deal for leaving the EU, but that any deal will not be a “back door” to staying in the bloc and would be limited in its time period.
“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 twenty months’ time,” the pair write.
“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.
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Hammond and Fox have previously been seen to be sitting on two different sides of the Brexit fence. Hammond, who campaigned to remain in the EU prior to last June’s vote, has publicly made clear that he favours a softer Brexit numerous times, and is believed to have frequently clashed with May over her approach to leaving the bloc. Fox on the other hand, is a staunch Brexiteer.
However, Sunday’s joint article appears to be an attempt to put to bed rumours and reports that May’s cabinet is deeply divided on what kind of Brexit Britain should be looking at.
In recent weeks numerous newspapers have reported cabinet splits, with ministers leaking confidential details of meetings in what appeared to be the first stages of a battle to succeed May as PM.
Continuing, the pair write that any transition “must ensure a smooth and predictable pathway for businesses and citizens alike. 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.”
“But we are also clear that during this period our borders must continue to operate smoothly; goods bought on the internet must still cross borders; businesses must still be able to supply their customers across the EU and our innovative, world-leading companies must be able to hire the talent they need, including from within the EU.”