Final deal must be in place before transition, May tells MPs

Catherine Neilan
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Leaders Meet In Brussels For European Council Meeting - Day One
May quoted Chancellor Merkel, saying the deal would happen (Source: Getty)

Theresa May told MPs that a final deal should be in place before transition can be agreed, as she came under pressure from all sides to give businesses and citizens urgent clarity on life after March 2019.

During an update to the Commons after last week's European Council the Prime Minister said Britain must know “where you are heading” before agreeing the two-year transition she has proposed, to try to break the deadlock in the talks.

Although she was echoing David Davis' comments from last week, her comments prompted a number of MPs to stress the need for confirmation before Christmas.

Labour MP Chris Leslie said businesses would be "shocked to hear" that there will be no clarity on transition until we get a final deal and called on the Prime Minister to agree the transition separately. But May dodged the question, insisting she was confident of getting a good deal.

A government spokesman later confirmed May's position. “As the Prime Minister has set out, it’s a bridge to where you are heading. You need to know where you are heading," he told reporters.

During the same update, May also said that the UK’s final payment to EU will depend on what the final trade relationship is.

But she declined Tory MP Edward Leigh's entreaties to "be more transparent around figures", saying there would be "a vote on the deal [in the Commons], before the European Parliament votes on the deal".

The divisions of the chamber on Brexit were laid bare, with foreign minister Boris Johnson nodding as backbencher John Redwood called on May to adopt WTO terms as a starting point, reiterating the point he made in an open letter coordinated by Leave means Leave. However former minister Nicky Morgan stressed the need for talks to continue.

Several MPs including Tory Anna Soubry and leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn called on May to rule out a no deal, which she refused to, insisting it was a critical to be able to walk away from talks rather than accept any deal.

In response to a question about the cost of a no deal, May said £250m will be spent this year preparing for "every eventuality".

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