- Theresa May is reportedly prepared to accept EU demands that any Brexit transition must end by December 31, 2020.
- The UK government had sought a transition phase of at least two years.
- Britain will continue to accept EU single market and customs union rules during the transition.
- Ending the transition in 2020 will prevent Britain from being drawn into the next EU financial round.
LONDON — Theresa May is preparing to accept EU demands to end any Brexit transition period in December 2020, three months earlier than the UK government had originally intended.
May's government had been working on the assumption that a Brexit transition phase would last at least two years after the date Britain formally leaves the EU in March 2019, with some reports suggesting the UK was seeking a transition of up to three years.
However, the government is now reportedly prepared to end the transition on December 31 2020, after the EU made an early exit a red-line in negotiations.
"The EU timetable is the working assumption and no one seems too upset by that," one Whitehall source told the Sun. Another said the EU timetable "falls within [our] scope of around two years."
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said in December that any Brexit transition would "be of a short and specific duration."
He added: "At Florence, Theresa May referred to a maximum of two years. Our position, the European Commission's position, is that this would run logically to December 31, 2020, because that's the duration of the current multi-annual financial framework."
This was confirmed in the EU's negotiating guidelines published at the end of last month.
The new timeline means Britain will have just 21 months from the date Brexit formally takes place in March 2019 to adjust to any new post-Brexit arrangements.
Negotiations over the terms of a Brexit transition deal began last week. The UK has provisionally accepted EU demands that Britain will continue to pay into EU budgets as well as abide by EU single market and customs union rules during the transition phase.
EU migrants will also continue to be allowed to move to the UK. However, May's government is seeking to negotiate a deal whereby arrivals after March 29, 2019, have lesser rights to settle in the UK than those who arrived before that date.