The UK should be able to outline an interim trade agreement with the EU by the first quarter of 2018, Brexit Secretary David Davis said on Wednesday.
Testifying to the House of Commons, Davis admitted that “it is a negotiation,” admitting the government may not be able to deliver.
Following Theresa May’s Florence speech, the UK has made clear that it aims to retain access to the Single Market avoiding divestment and job losses.
As an open letter to the government by the five biggest business groups was leaked to the press on Sunday Davis moved on Wednesday to offer reassurances that fall short of detailed plans.
EU leaders have committed to authorizing preparations for trade negotiations in December. The Brexit Secretary is optimistic that a swift interim agreement is possible as it entails maintaining the status quo. However, this confidence falls short of reassurance that will restore business confidence.
Moreover, it is unclear whether the UK aspires to change the current status quo by seeking limitations on the free movement of EU citizens during the transition period.
EU negotiators have said that a trade agreement cannot be concluded before 2020, whilst the UK reiterates its “ambition” to complete the process by March 2019. Mr. Davis said that a trade deal could be signed “a nanosecond” after the UK leaves the EU the BBC reported on Wednesday.