We will build a bridge from our exit to our future partnership to allow business and people time to adjust, and to allow new systems to be put in place. It makes sense, therefore, for there to be only one set of changes. The Prime Minister’s Florence speech laid out our proposal for a strictly time-limited implementation period, based on the existing structure of EU rules and regulations, to provide certainty to individuals and businesses. The European Council has set out the possibility of such a period in its guidelines. We intend to get the form of the implementation period agreed as early as possible.
The Chancellor has described the proposal for a transitional arrangement as a “wasting asset” for businesses: the arrangements will become less valuable the longer it takes to negotiate them, as they will cease to provide certainty about the future. Does the Secretary of State agree with that assessment? Will he therefore rule out lengthy negotiations over the terms of the transitional arrangements?
The hon. Lady makes a good point. There are three reasons for the implementation period. One is to give businesses a significant amount of time after the decisions are made, so that they can make their decisions on the basis of clarity and certainty. The second is to give the Government time to prepare changes in the regulatory structures, regulations, customs and all the other things we have to do. The third is to give foreign Governments time to make accommodations too, because we will depend on, for example, French customs arrangements. Those are the three reasons. The first is, as the Chancellor says, a wasting asset if it goes on for very long—not immediately, but if it goes on for very long.
The European Council is, I think, on 13 or 14 December —anyway, it is in the middle of December. If it finds that there has been sufficient progress at that point, we will start straightaway and conclude as fast as we can. However, it is a negotiation and there are two sides to make the decision. The hon. Lady can take it as read that we will be as quick as we can on that to give as great an amount of certainty as early as possible to British business.