EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has proposed extending the period during which Britain will stay in the EU Single Market and Customs Union by a maximum of two years, The Sun reported.
At their meeting with Barnier on Sunday, most European ambassadors agreed to make New Year’s Eve 2022 as a final end date for the transition.
“We don’t want the transition to go on and on forever. If we can’t work out a deal by then we have to accept the need to fall back on the backstop,” an EU diplomat told The Sun.
The two sides need to agree on the final date ahead of their summit to ink the deal next Sunday.
The envoys also agreed to expand the political declaration on trade from seven pages to 20 by adding extra details on fishing and the Level Playing Field.
On Sunday night, London dismissed reports that it was ready to accept the proposed date, saying that it “hasn’t been agreed yet”.
On Monday, Business Secretary Greg Clark said, however, that Britain could ask for a longer Brexit transition period if needed, not ruling out the possibility it could last until 2022.
"It would be our discretion, it would be purely for us if we wanted to and there are reasons we may not want to take that up, it would be available to us," he told the BBC. He did not rule out a suggestion that it could last until 2022.
The United Kingdom is due to formally leave the EU on March 29, 2019 but a planned transition period means it will remain a member in all but name until the end of December 2020.
Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been forced to play a delicate balancing act in an effort to accommodate Brexiteers, who worry that Britain will be tied to the EU for years to come, has insisted that any extension to the transition will only last “a matter of months”.
IN an interview with Sputnik, Ronen Palan, professor of international politics with the City University of London, said that Britain is highly divided and has no viable plan for credit.
"It took more than two years just to negotiate the withdrawal, and we 're not sure whether parliament will sign on the agreement. Business doesn't not know at this stage what the future relationship might be with 40, 50 percent of UK imports and exports. Business is now asking for extension of five to ten years for preparation, and so two years extension to the transition is on the low or minimal level business is asking for."
He added that "if Brexit is agreed, a big if, at this point, the two-year extension is likely to be extended yet again as we near the deadline. By then the UK will be six years after the vote, the number of eligible voters would change by about seven million people or so. 800,000 new voters every year plus 500,000 die every year. The demographic change may kill off Brexit by then.”
According to recent polls, the majority of British voters now want to stay in the European Union, more than two years after the 2016 referendum that triggered the country’s divorce from the bloc.
With the clock ticking on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, Germany and France are already stepping up their preparations for a no-deal Brexit even though both publicly insist an agreement with the UK over the terms of its departure from the EU can still be achieved.