Britain will leave the European Union by the “back door” leaving the single market and customs union in March 2019, Philip Hammond and Liam Fox have jointly declared.
In an attempt to provide a unified front after a summer of open conflict, the Chancellor and International Trade Secretary have said there will be a transitional “time-limited” period designed to avoid a so-called “cliff-edge”.
However, their joint article for the Sunday Telegraph does not declare how long this period will last.
Mr Hammond and Mr Fox write: “We will leave the customs union and be free to negotiate the best trade deals around the world as an independent, open, trading nation.
“We will leave the single market, because there was a vote for change on June 23 and that is what we will deliver.
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“We want our economy to remain strong and vibrant through this period of change.
“That means businesses need to have confidence that there will not be a cliff-edge when we leave the EU in just over 20 months’ time.
“That is why we believe a time-limited interim period will be important to further our national interest and give business greater certainty – but it cannot be indefinite; it cannot be a back door to staying in the EU.
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“We are both clear that during this period the UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union and will be a ‘third-country’ not party to EU treaties.
“But we are also clear that during this period our borders must continue to operate smoothly; goods bought on the internet must still cross borders; businesses must still be able to supply their customers across the EU and our innovative, world-leading companies must be able to hire the talent they need, including from within the EU.”
The joint statement from those who represent Remain and Leave within the Cabinet comes as Theresa May returns from her walking holiday in Switzerland this week.
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Meanwhile, ministers are to publish a new series of detailed papers setting out their aims for the Brexit talks amid criticism about a lack of clarity over the Government’s negotiating position.
These include papers on the issue of the Irish border as well as a paper on the “future partnership” arrangements, including the UK’s proposals for a new customs agreement with the EU.
The new detailed proposals come as Mr Davis prepares to embark on a third round of talks with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier in the Belgian capital at the end of the month.
Mr Barnier has expressed his disappointment that the first two rounds of talks have failed to produce sufficient clarity on the opening issues of the Irish border, the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and Britain’s “divorce bill”.
Sources at the Department for Exiting the EU said the “future partnership” papers would show that the Government is ready to move on to the next stage of the negotiations.
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Mr Davis said: “Over the last year, the Government has been working with British businesses and the British people to establish exactly how our new relationship with the EU should look and feel.
“I’ve launched this process because with time of the essence, we need to get on with negotiating the bigger issues around our future partnership to ensure we get a deal that delivers a strong UK and a strong EU.
“It’s what businesses across Europe have called on both sides to do and will demonstrate that the UK is ready for the job.
“As well the issue of the Irish border, the first set of new position papers will also cover continued availability of goods for the EU and the UK, and confidentiality and access to official documents following the UK’s withdrawal.”