The secretary for international trade Liam Fox has a deadline in mind for a transitional period after Brexit, he has revealed.
Fox wants a period of transition after the UK formally leaves the EU, in which to agree new rules and deals, to be wrapped up before the next election he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.
He has previously said a transitional deal, which is supported by the majority of business, should last months rather than years. But last week he appeared to soften that stance, saying merely that it should be "time-limited" indicating the government's softening on Brexit and acceptance that a longer period for negotiations is necessary.
The UK officially leaves the EU in 2019 and a General Election would take place in 2022 if one were not called earlier.
“Frankly, having waited for over 40 years to leave the European Union, 24 months would be a rounding error, whether that’s 23 or 25 is not a huge deal, nor is it an ideological one, it’s about the practical issues we would face: for example getting any new immigration or customs systems into place," said Fox, indicating he accepts the transition period may, in fact, be years, rather than months.
“I think we would want to get it out of the way before the general election, I don’t think we would want to have it dragging on. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to have a transition that would make it as smooth as possible. I think that’s what businesses would want us to have in Britain and what our investors abroad would want to see.”
It comes as the trade secretary prepares for talks with the US, the UK's biggest trading partner, over a post-Brexit trade deal.
Writing about the trip to Washington for The Sunday Times, Fox said:
"Bilateral trade is already worth more than £150bn a year, the US is the single biggest source of inward investment into the UK, and together we have around $1 trillion invested in each other’s economies — and this is operating on the World Trade Organisation’s rules. Just imagine what a future ambitious free-trade agreement (FTA) could bring in the future."