British MPs call on May to clarify Brexit plans by mid-Feb

British Prime Minister Theresa May had earlier promised to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, which sets out a two-year timeframe for exit negotiations, by the end of March.
British Prime Minister Theresa May had earlier promised to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, which sets out a two-year timeframe for exit negotiations, by the end of March.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • An influential group of MPs yesterday called on British Prime Minister Theresa May to publish by the middle of next month her plans for Britain's exit from the European Union, and urged her to prepare for a transitional deal to limit uncertainty for business.

The cross-party Brexit committee called for a policy document clarifying the government's "broad aims", including whether Britain should stay in the single market and Customs union, to allow proper scrutiny before exit talks start.

Mrs May had earlier promised to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, which sets out a two-year timeframe for exit negotiations, by the end of March.

Said committee chairman Hilary Benn: "We are not asking the government to give away its red lines or negotiating fallback positions, but we do want clarity on its broad aims, given the significance and complexity of the negotiating task."

Ministers have said they want to agree on both the terms of the exit and a new trade relationship with the EU within the two-year timeframe, but European leaders have warned that this will be tough.

Echoing calls by many business leaders, the committee said it would be wise to prepare for a transitional deal in the event that a new trade agreement was not ready.

The committee said the government should seek continued access to EU markets in financial services, for the benefit of both sides, and warned against a return to tariffs in other sectors. It also called for a commitment that British lawmakers - most of whom opposed Brexit - will have a vote on the final deal.

Mrs May has said that giving a "running commentary" on her plans could harm the country's negotiating position, but has promised more details in a major speech on Tuesday. "I will set out more on our objectives for those negotiations - how we will work to get the right deal... and embark on a new constructive partnership with the EU that makes sense for us all," she told a press conference last Friday.

Mrs May has said she wants to end uncontrolled immigration and remove Britain from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice - two key elements of the single market.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 15, 2017, with the headline 'British MPs call on May to clarify Brexit plans by mid-Feb'. Print Edition | Subscribe