UK Chancellor says Brexit transition should end by 2022
A Brexit transition period which would maintain freedom of movement, access to the single market and restrictions on deals with third countries should end by 2022, British Chancellor Philip Hammond said on Friday.
Speaking to the BBC, Hammond confirmed reports the cabinet had agreed to a transitional period after Brexit and said "many things will look similar" the day after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.
"There will be a process between the date we leave the European Union and the date on which the new treaty-based arrangements between the U.K. and the European Union, which we hope and expect to negotiate, come into force," said Hammond.
He suggested there was a "broad consensus" to complete Brexit arrangements by June 2022 -- the date of the U.K.'s next scheduled general election. A maximum three-year interim period from 2019 would "move us on a steady path without cliff edges from where we are today to the new long-term relationship with the European Union," he said.
Hammond's remarks contradicted another minister who, a day before, said freedom of movement will end when the country leaves the EU in 2019.
"Free movement of labor ends when we leave the European Union in the spring of 2019," British immigration minister Brandon Lewis said on Thursday.
"It's part of the four key principles of the European Union. When we leave, it therefore -- by definition -- ends," Lewis said.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd later clarified that EU migrants would still be able to come as long as their presence is registered.
Immigration was one of the key issues during the Brexit referendum campaign. Leave supporters targeted the high numbers of yearly net migration into the U.K.
Meanwhile, Malta's premier has said he started to believe Brexit may never happen.
In an interview with Dutch reporters, Joseph Muscat said a political leader in Britain should show courage and fight for a referendum on the terms of the country's exit deal with the EU.
"For the first time, I'm starting to believe that Brexit will not happen," Muscat said.
"I am seeing hopeful signs that indicate things will change. I see encouraging signs that the tide is turning. I'm not saying the Brits have made a mistake, but the mood is changing," he added.
The U.K. is expected to leave the EU in 2019 after completing exit negotiations which commenced in June.