Philip Hammond has ruled out Britain remaining within the EU’s single market as part of a transitional Brexit arrangement – as Labour left the option open.
The Chancellor insisted the UK will be quitting the single market – and thereby ending free movement migration rules – at the same time as the country leaves the EU in March 2019.
His assertion comes on the back of claims by prominent Labour MP Stephen Kinnock he has had “positive conversations” with Tory MPs about forcing the Government to keep Britain in the single market for a time-limited period.
Despite tensions at the top of Government, Mr Hammond claimed the “great majority” of his Cabinet colleagues now agree with his view a transitional arrangement with the EU is “the right and sensible way to go both in the UK and the EU”.
But, ahead of Brexit Secretary David Davis travelling to Brussels on Monday for the next round of exit negotiations, Mr Hammond denied Britain would remain in the single market under a temporary deal.
“We would not be members of the single market because we would leave the single market when we left the EU on 29 March, 2019,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.
“That is fixed, I don’t think anybody is suggesting we should change that.”
The Chancellor suggested a transitional arrangement could last “a couple of years” but described the length of any such deal as a “technical question” – dependent on Britain putting in place new customs systems and migration systems that “can’t be magicked up overnight”.
He said: “We have got to do this in a way that meets the concerns and requirements of both people who want a softer version of Brexit and those who campaigned hard to leave the EU.
“I think most people are willing to accept a transition so long as it’s of a limited duration in order to avoid a hard landing.”
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox expressed his hope he will be allowed to negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries during a transitional period, but admitted such a right would have to be “negotiated” with the EU during Brexit talks.
“I’d hope we’d be able to do that and I hope that’s one of the conditions we would set,” he said.
Labour left open the possibility of Britain remaining in the single market even beyond a transitional arrangement.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “We have got to respect the result of the referendum, we have got to respect the will of the people in terms of having greater control over our laws, greater control over our borders.
“If we could negotiate an agreement on remaining in the single market that dealt with all of those issues, then that would be fantastic.”
The Labour frontbencher also claimed the party want to “have our cake and eat it” by being able to sign free trade deals around the world while retaining the benefits of being in the EU’s Customs Union.
(c) Sky News 2017: Hammond rules out single market membership in temporary Brexit deal