20 December 2017
Back in January in her Lancaster House speech, Mrs May first aired the idea that, at the end of the two year Article 50 period, there should be ‘a phased process of implementation’. It sounded reasonable enough, albeit rather vague both as to its purpose and duration.
Nearly a year later, though the idea has gathered considerable support from business and is even taken for granted, it is still no clearer, and no evidence has been published to show why it is necessary. The CBI and other trade associations pressing for such a transition period seem to think that HMG and the rest of us should simply take their word for it, which was their approach during the Balance of Competences Review in 2013, and again during the referendum debate. On both occasions, no trade association or business presented evidence to demonstrate that EU membership had enabled member companies to outperform their non-member competitors in trading with the Single Market. They still haven’t.
So far at least, their campaign for a transition period suggests they intend to try the same approach again. No trade association or business has described what is going to be implemented or transitioned, by whom, in what way, with what resources, or explained why an extension beyond the Article 50 period is required. It follows that no one can sensibly judge what period of implementation or transition is required. Two weeks, two years or twenty, everyone must guess wildly, including Mrs May.
Remainer media have added their support for their own reasons. The Financial Times enthusiastically reported that Mrs May’s reference to an implementation period of ‘around two years’ in her Florence speech ‘amounted to a plan to keep the UK in the EU in all but name until 2021’. It thought her speech had won applause in Brussels for its ‘constructive spirit’ but the FT expressed no interest in what might be implemented during these two years. For them, as for other Remainers, they seem to deserve support solely because a transition period provides an opportunity for unforeseen events to intervene and frustrate Brexit altogether.
To read Michael Burrage’s piece for BrexitCentral in full, click here.