Brexit Transition May Take Longer Than Two Years, Ireland Says

  • Irish said to see transition taking as long as five years
  • EU wary of U.K. government using transition to buy more time

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Britain’s Brexit transition may extend beyond the two-year time line suggested by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, Ireland’s foreign minister said.

“It may well prove necessary for the U.K. to seek a longer transition phase than the two-years, considering the amount of work involved preparing adequately for Brexit,” Simon Coveney said in parliament in Dublin late on Tuesday.

Simon Coveney
Photographer: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The so-called implementation period after the U.K. exits the European Union laid out by May in her Florence speech last week could take as long as five years, according to person familiar with the Irish government’s preparations for Brexit, who asked not to be named as the deliberations are private.

Ireland, the EU economy most vulnerable to Brexit, is seeking as long a transition as possible. The EU has made clear that any transition should be time-limited, and the pro-Brexit members of May’s government were reluctant to accept even a two-year bridging deal.

“The difficulty for the U.K. to bear in mind is that the EU27 would need to agree to a longer transition period of more than three years, and that’s not a given,” said Katy Hayward, a political sociologist at Queen’s University Belfast. “What they don’t want is a period of indecision, and the EC is very wary about the U.K. using the transition period to buy more time.”

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