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Theresa May admits the Brexit transition period could last until 2022

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  • Theresa May says the UK will end the Brexit transition
    period before the next general election in May 2022.
  • She has previously suggested any extension would only
    last a few months after December 2020.
  • Her words contradict suggestions from the EU’s Michel
    Barnier, who on Sunday suggested to EU27 leaders last week that
    the UK could opt to remain under EU control until the end of
    December 2022.
  • She tells the CBI conference: “I think it is
    important that … we’re out of the implementation period
    before the next general election.”

LONDON — Theresa May has said Britain could still be in the
Brexit transition period in spring 2022, some six years after
Britain voted to leave the EU.

The so-called “implementation period” is currently set to end in
December 2020. 

However, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Sunday
floated the idea of the UK remaining under EU control until the
end of 2022, which would infuriate Tory Brexiteers and cost
billions of pounds.

Speaking at the CBI conference in London on Monday, the prime
minister did not rule out extending the transition by more than a
year, but insisted that it was “important” that Britain is “out
of the implementation period before the next general election” in
May 2022.

She said that the UK could extend the transition period for a
“short time” beyond December 2020 — when it is scheduled to end —
as an alternative to the deeply unpopular Irish backstop
mechanism. But she said she hoped to avoid falling back on either
option because the UK and EU would by then have agreed on the
terms of their future trading relationship. 

“I think it is important that in delivering for the British
people we’re out of the implementation period before the next
general election,” she said.

She added: “It’s possible to provide for the Northern Irish
border through an extension of the implementation period.”

“My view is I don’t want that even to have to come into place. I
want the future relationship to be in place on 1
January 2021.”

Any extension of the transition would be designed principally to
give the UK more time to negotiate its future relationship with
the EU and avoid falling back on the Irish backstop, an insurance
policy designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland which would
create the need for checks on goods moving between Northern
Ireland and Great Britain. 

Theresa May’s speech to business leaders came as part of a
concerted effort to win support for her Brexit deal from all
quarters. Facing an uphill battle to win the support of Tory MPs
and a sceptical public, she has already addressed Cabinet, faced
a grueling session in parliament, and conducted several
interviews.

The most immediate threat to her leadership comes in the form of
a potential leadership challenge. All eyes are on Graham Brady,
chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, who must
call a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister if he receives
48 letters. Conservative MPs would then have the option to vote
for or against May’s leadership, with May’s allies confident she
could survive a vote and continue trying to press her deal
through parliament.

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