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U.K. Eyes Longer Brexit Transition and Asks EU to Talk Dates

Tim Ross, Nikos Chrysoloras
The Union flag, also known as a Union Jack, right, hangs from a flagpole beside the European Union (EU) and other EU national flags ahead of the arrival of EU leaders at the Europa Building in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. As the European Union prepares to declare that divorce talks with the U.K. have made sufficient progress to move on to negotiations about their future relationship, the bloc’s leaders, gathering in Brussels for their last summit this year, will shift their attention to some familiar topics. Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is asking the European Union to rethink its plan to end the Brexit transition period that businesses want on the final day of 2020, suggesting such a bridging phase should last as long as it’s needed.

The British suggestion of a longer bridging phase risks inflaming May’s already tense relations with euroskeptics in her own Tory party. They want her to take the U.K. out of the bloc as soon as possible and keep any transitional arrangements to a minimum. May says she wants such an implementation period to last around two years, while the European Union has stipulated an end date of Dec. 31, 2020.

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Read more: Full text of the draft legal document

“The U.K. believes the period’s duration should be determined simply by how long it will take to prepare and implement the new processes and new systems that will underpin the future partnership,” May’s government said in a draft legal document seen by Bloomberg. “The U.K. agrees this points to a period of around two years, but wishes to discuss with the EU the assessment that supports its proposed end date,” according to the draft.

The legal text sets out the U.K.’s proposals for a transitional agreement to take effect after it leaves the EU in March 2019. The idea of a transition phase is to smooth the U.K.’s path out of the bloc and give time for British and European businesses to adjust to the new arrangements.

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On Monday night, a letter emerged from 62 Brexit-supporting Tory lawmakers to the prime minister in which they demanded restrictions on any transitional terms that May agrees on.

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