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Exiting the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 28th June 2018.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Chair, Committee on Exiting the European Union 12:32 pm, 28th June 2018

I suspect that that is the case. Why did the Government eventually seek a transitional period? They did so because we all agreed that falling off the edge of a cliff in March next year without an agreement was not sensible for the economy. Picking up on the point that my hon. Friend Mike Gapes raised a moment ago, if we have not been able to conclude all the details of a treaty or treaties on the future partnership during the transitional period, what would be the logic of then falling off a cliff 21 months later? There is none. My own view is that it is increasingly likely that there will have to be a further transition period, because we are running out of time.

Let us take as an example the customs arrangements that the Cabinet is currently discussing. I think it is pretty clear that even if it reached agreement on one or other of them, there might not be time to get all of that implemented before the end of December 2020. The indications that I have seen suggest that that might not be possible. If it is not possible, or if it is not possible to reach an agreement, it clearly makes sense to extend the transition period. For that to happen, however, there has to be a clause in the withdrawal agreement to allow for such an extension. The last thing we want is to end up, in December 2020, with everyone agreeing that it would be sensible to have a bit more time, only for someone to say, “I’m really sorry, but this agreement doesn’t allow for that, so you’re out on your ear with whatever you’re holding at the time.” And that is not in the interests of the United Kingdom, is it?