Kay Swinburne, the Welsh Conservative member of the European Parliament, has said that a two-year transition period after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 won’t be long enough.

In her Florence speech in September, British prime minister Theresa May proposed a “time limited” post-Brexit transition period of about two years.

However, negotiating a trade deal between the EU and the UK could take more than five years, Swinburne told a conference in London today:

Brussels is clear that any free trade deal, which gives equal weight to goods and services, requires a transition period of at least five years.

In October, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned that a UK-EU trade deal would take three years “if we start talking in December. It comes with risks too, because all parliaments have to give approval [to a new deal].”

Barnier’s comments were echoed by Pascal Lamy, the former World Trade Organisation (WTO) director-general, who said last month that it could take over ten years to fully implement a comprehensive trade deal between the UK and the EU.

Ahead of a speech at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin, he said:

You cannot implement the result of a negotiation overnight. Economic operators have to adjust and they have to plan.

Meanwhile, Ireland has also called for a transition period of up to five years.

Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister told the Financial Times that an outcome “that is good for the British economy and Irish economy and the EU economy . . . requires a sensible and pragmatic approach towards a transition arrangement. For me, that’s closer to four or five years rather than two”.

Financial Settlement

Before agreeing to a transition period, the EU wants to know exactly how much the UK is willing to pay for single market access after March 2019.

Barnier and other EU officials have repeatedly called on the UK government to provide some “real clarification” on the financial settlement.

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May could double the UK’s €20bn offer to the EU over the Brexit divorce bill to move talks out of deadlock in time for next month’s meeting of European leaders, according to The Times.

While May’s spokesman dismissed the claim as “speculation”. Swinburne said that the money the UK owes the EU remains a source of tension.

We [the UK] have got ourselves in a mess when it comes to the detail of the finances we owe Brussels. Nobody in the UK government is saying we are not going to pay, but the 27 member states only hear that we are arguing about the detail  — not that we will pay the money.”

More clarity

Swinburne added that it is reasonable that “the EU wants to know where we [the UK] are transitioning to before we agree a transition arrangement”.

Last week, Barnier said that the UK has 14 days to clarify its position on key issues or make concessions before a transition period can be discussed.

In a speech at the investment bank UBS in London on Tuesday, Brexit Secretary David Davis reassured City executives that he aims to get an agreement on a time-limited Brexit implementation phase “very early next year”.

If  May does not provide details relating to the amount of money the UK will give the EU before the end of the month, France and Germany have warned they could refuse to offer assurances about a transition period until next year.