​Brexit transition deal should start with status quo, UK's Hill says

21 September 2017 3:30pm

14 September 2017. By Lewis Crofts.

The UK government is starting to realize that the best starting point for a transition out of the European Union is the existing terms of membership, a former British EU commissioner has said.

Jonathan Hill, now a member of the UK Parliament's unelected upper house, also said there would be no great breakthrough on Brexit at a summit of EU leaders in October. He said that a top-down political decision — rather than technical papers — was needed to unblock talks.

Speaking at a conference* in London, Hill noted that businesses would prefer to implement one set of changes on leaving the bloc, rather than two.

There is a "growing realization" in government that "it doesn't really make sense, if the logic of having a transition is to minimize disruption, to ask business to go through two sets of changes," he said.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is due to make a speech on Sept. 22, widely expected to develop the UK's negotiating position and potentially advance talks. The EU and UK are currently deeply divided over a payment to settle Britain's outstanding liabilities to the bloc's budget.

The leaders of the 27 remaining EU countries are due to meet at the end of October where they will take stock of the talks, and decide whether to give EU negotiator Michel Barnier a mandate to discuss the UK's post-Brexit trade relationship with the bloc — something the UK has called for.

"This is ultimately going to be a top-down political decision," Hill said. "You are not going to solve it from the bottom up with all sorts of technical papers with all sorts of ingenious ideas."

He said the EU system could be inflexible but is also able to engineer solutions when the political will exists. European negotiations often follow the pattern of engineering a "crisis" before finding a "resolution," he added.

Hill warned that British negotiators should be "careful in trying to get the transition right," making sure it doesn't end up "sacrificing potential flexibility" which the country could need at a later date as the EU and the UK economies develop separately.

Hill resigned from his role as commissioner for financial services shortly after the referendum on Brexit in June 2016.

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