European Council’s Brexit working party poised to water down transition plan

Catherine Neilan
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Pro-Europe Protesters Wave EU Flags Outside Parliament
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The European Council is expected to relax its stance on the Brexit transition period, after plans to restrict access to the Single Market were met with resistance from the UK.

Last week Brussels published its draft treaty, which included an ominous footnote suggesting that a mechanism should be introduced to the withdrawal agreement that enabled the EU to "suspend certain benefits for the UK deriving from the internal market".

It was published as some of Theresa May's most senior ministers met to agree the desired transition and end state negotiating positions and prompted Brexit secretary David Davis to accuse the bloc of being "discourteous" and acting in "bad faith".

Whitehall figures dismissed the proposal as "ridiculous".

The European Councils' Brexit working party is gathering for the second part of a two-day meeting to finalise its position and so far one of the key results appears to be a watering down of this footnote.

According to Politico, the new wording will now state that if the UK were to breach EU law during the transitional period, the Commission would be obliged to start an infringement procedure against the UK under Article 258 of the EU treaty. That is standard EU operating procedure.

Yesterday one City figure told City A.M. that businesses were ignoring much of the bluster on both sides at this stage.

"Everyone has to set out an absolutist and stark position now so when they make concessions later it doesn’t seem like a loss," he said. "A lot of the rhetoric is pure froth."

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