BRUSSELS – The European Parliament's top Brexit official said Wednesday that the slow progress of the divorce proceedings between the European Union and Britain has ensured that the prospect of a prolonged transition period is gaining traction.
Over the summer, there's been growing talk on both sides of the need for a transition period after the March 2019 Brexit deadline that will see Britain more or less replicate its current arrangements with the EU in order to avoid a so-called "cliff edge" scenario, whereby the country crashes out of the bloc with no trade deal.
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"There is now more and more recognition of the need of such a transition period," the legislature's Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said.
He also noted that there is "a greater understanding from the U.K. side for the need for a transitional arrangement." In the past few weeks, senior members of the British government have voiced their support for some sort of transitional arrangements after Brexit whereby Britain remains part of the European single market and customs union.
In Verhofstadt's view, Britain would have to continue to abide by EU rules during that transition period which could take three years while a new relationship is built.
"The more and more time we lose in the coming months, the more and more it is clear that the transition period can only be the prolongation of the existing situation, the status quo," Verhofstadt told legislators.
Verhofstadt made the remarks to a parliamentary committee, just streets away from where British and EU officials were negotiating in their third round of talks. So far there have been no apparent breakthroughs, stoking talk of the need for a transition period after the two-year Brexit process ends March 29, 2019.
Officials on both sides have said the talks would center on technical issues and would not create any major breakthroughs.
"There is slow progress in general," Verhofstadt said. Britain has been seeking to rebuff criticism this week that it has been slow out of the blocks after triggering the Brexit timetable.
Verhofstadt was hoping to have the European Parliament produce a resolution in early October to make clear its demands in light of the position papers already published by London. European lawmakers will have to approve any separation agreement at the end of the Brexit negotiations.
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