Philip Hammond and Liam Fox have poured cold water on the idea of a soft Brexit by declaring Britain will not remain in the single market or customs union.
The Chancellor and International Trade Secretary wrote a joint article in the Sunday Telegraph underlining that any post-Brexit transition would not be a ‘back door’ to remain in the EU.
After a summer of cabinet funding, the pair agreed there should not be a cliff-edge break when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.
However, they affirmed that any such arrangement would be ‘time-limited” and therefore temporary.
‘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.’
From this week, the Government is to start publishing a new series of detailed papers setting out its negotiating position on a range of key issues, amid criticism from Brussels of a lack of clarity about what it wants.
The first will focus on the issue of the border between Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland.
Ministers hope it will be enough to persuade the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier that sufficient progress has been made on the opening issues of the Irish border, the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and Britain’s ‘divorce bill’ to move on to the second phase of talks including a new trade deal.