Britain is set to leave the EU in March 2019, but a transition period is likely to delay the country's break with Brussels. However, the interim period must end before 2021 — in sync with the EU budgetary cycle.
Britain will have no say in the decision-making processes of the European Union (EU), while being forced to follow all of the bloc's rules during a transition period that could stretch until the end of 2020, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator said Wednesday.
Britain is due to officially leave the EU at midnight on March 29, 2019, but a transition period to help prepare for Brexit would be acceptable, provided it doesn't extend beyond 2020, said EU negotiator Michel Barnier.
Legislation intended to propel Britain towards the exit took a step closer to becoming law on Wednesday, as ministers began working out what they want from Brexit.
The House of Commons was holding its eighth and final day of detailed scrutiny of the EU Bill on withdrawal, which would formally end Britain's membership in the bloc and transfer EU rules into British law. The chamber is expected to vote on key amendments.
EU budgets run in seven-year cycles, with the current cycle due to conclude at the end of 2020. Tying Britain's transition out of the EU to the union's budget cycle should make it easier to disentangle Britain's debts and benefits. British Prime Minister Teresa May, however, had sought a slightly longer transition period.
The UK will be the first EU member to ever leave the bloc, though public opinion polls show waning support for the move. Brussels will allow Britain to negotiate new trade arrangements with other nations during the transition period, but it would not be allowed to finalize any trade pact until 2021.
EU rules during transition
They will also be required to apply common EU customs duties and perform all border checks in accordance with EU laws.
"There will be no transition a la carte," Barnier told reporters in Brussels. "All the rules and policies of the EU must continue to be applied."
Barnier, who was unveiling the European Commission's terms of his negotiating guidelines for the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, added that, "all new rules adopted by the EU during the transition will be applied to the United Kingdom."
The EU's highest court will continue to have authority in Britain, he said. One of Britain's main reasons for leaving the EU is to be free of the bloc's highest tribunal - the European Court of Justice.
Come March 30, Britain will lose its seat on the European Council, where ministers represent EU nations, and its lawmakers will no longer sit in the European Parliament, and their judges will lose their seats on EU courts.
Some officials may be granted a kind of observer status on standing committees and expert groups, but they will have no voting power.
Read more: About the EU-UK agreement
British voters opted for Brexit during a June 2016 plebiscite because they were eager to separate themselves from the EU.
But the transition period, at least, looks to give Britain the worst of both worlds; it will bind the country as tightly as ever to the EU but will remove all British influence over European affairs.
bik/rc (AP, AFP)