Soft Brexit? Chancellor Philip Hammond claims big support for a transitional deal to avoid "hard landing"

Lynsey Barber
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Hammond has indicated a softening stance on Brexit (Source: Getty)

The chancellor has claimed there is widespread support for the transitional Brexit deal favoured by business.

There is majority support for what is considered a "soft Brexit" arrangement, said Philip Hammond, that would extend the amount of time to come to new arrangements for working with the rest of Europe.

And that support was in the UK and the EU, he said, speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning, denying claims the matter was splitting the Cabinet.

Read more: A transitional Brexit deal is essential - and highly likely

"I believe the great majority of my colleagues now recognise that is the right and sensible way to go, both in the UK and the European Union," he said.

"I think now you'd find that pretty much everybody around the Cabinet table accepts that there will be some kind of transition."

Hammond's confidence in the consensus over such an arrangement, whereby there would be a longer period to negotiate the terms of leaving than the two year period offered by triggering Article 50, comes after new meetings between business and government commenced.

Such a deal has been favoured by business as it gives them longer to navigate the unwinding of complicated red tape, ensure access to skills and talent from abroad, as well as other concerns.

He said a transitional deal would last "a couple of years" rather than months, but wouldn't speculate on exact lengths

Read more: It's official: ECB to make it easier for UK banks to move to EU post-Brexit

"I think most people are wiling to accept a transition, so long as it's of a limited duration in order to avoid a hard landing," he said.

"New customs systems, new migration systems, these things can't be magicked up overnight. There is a piece of work going on inside government now, to look at how long it will take to build the infrastructure, hire the people, put in place the IT systems and so on."

But Trade secretary Liam Fox refused to be drawn on Hammond's view on it being in the years, shortly after.

He told the BBC's Sunday Politics there should be a time limit with strict conditions, but steered away from his own previous comments that it should be in the months, indicating the rifts running through May's Cabinet. Hammond was a remain supporter at last years EU referendum and Fox a hard Brexiteer.

Fox said any transitional deal would have to give the UK the ability to negotiate new trade deals.

"I don’t have a problem with the transition period as long as is time-limited," he said.

"I want in a transitional period to be able to negotiate agreements at that point, what we can't have is a putting off of the point where we have freedom to negotiate our trade agreements."

Meanwhile, Hammond said businesses were holding off on investment where they can.

"And you can understand why, they're waiting for more clarity on what the future relationship with Europe wil look like. And the way to get the economy moving, the way to restore business confidence, and then consumer confidence, is to give as much clarity as possible as early as possible, which is why I have been talking over the last four or five weeks about the importance of a transition arrangement."

However, membership of the Single Market would certainly come to an end, he added.

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