The transition period of the UK leaving the EU will be agreed within eight weeks, the Brexit Secretary said today.
David Davis said it would be possible to cut a deal on the transition by the end of March.
The transition period is expected to last two years.
Mr Davis also stated that Britain will aim to stay closely aligned to the European Union’s regulatory regime after it leaves the bloc but wants the freedom to go its own way if it chooses in future.
During negotiations with the EU, the UK will aim to secure the power to diverge from the bloc’s rules on financial services and other trade issues, Mr Davis told a panel of lawmakers in London on Wednesday. Still, it will be up to parliament and the government to decide later “whether or not” this power is used, he said.
Mr Davis’s comments represent the clearest statement so far on what UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s government wants to achieve for a future relationship with the EU after Brexit.
“The aim in this whole exercise will be to maintain the maximum possible access to the European market whilst at the same time exercising our own freedom over what we are going to do in the future,” Mr Davis said. “I see my task as creating that freedom.”
Mrs May’s Cabinet is currently finalising its plan for the so-called “end state” of Brexit -- what kind of future trade partnership Britain hopes for. Negotiations between the UK and the EU on this issue are due to begin in March. Before then, officials on both sides will hash out the terms of a transitional phase potentially lasting up to two years.
Mr Davis told the committee that he wanted the transition period -- also called an “implementation” phase -- to help businesses cope, by keeping trading terms in line with single market membership.
Mr Davis also confirmed that the European Court of Justice will hold sway over the UK in the transition, which the EU expects to last until the end of 2020. Escaping the writ of the ECJ is a Brexit “red line” for Mrs May.
While officials have been holding talks behind the scenes, Mr Davis said he had not yet decided when he will next sit down opposite his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, for formal negotiations, though it could be as soon as next week.