Extending the transition period

28 September 2018
Tobias Lock (Senior Lecturer, Edinburgh University) and Fabian Zuleeg (Chief Executive and Chief Economist)

In the current Brexit debate, much emphasis is put on the imminent cliff edge; the possibility that, on 29 March 2019, the UK leaves the European Union without any deal on the table. But even if a consensus can be found before that time, a second cliff edge will loom at the end of the transition period that is currently foreseen in the European Commission’s draft Withdrawal Agreement.

During that period, which nominally lasts for 21 months but effectively could be as little as one year, given the political change-over in the EU and time needed for ratification, the UK and EU will have to determine their future long-term relationship, making complicated decisions on a range of sensitive, interrelated policy issues, such as trade, justice, research and security.

Even with the best will in the world, and without the inevitable frictions that will arise, a year is simply not long enough. That is why Tobias Lock and Fabian Zuleeg argue that an explicit clause allowing for the extension of the transition period should be included in the Withdrawal Agreement. They put forward a detailed proposal on how this could be done and provide the legal basis on which such a clause can be added. 

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