At the General Affairs Council on Monday the European Council agreed its negotiating directives on the implementation period. Now that the Commission has a clear negotiating mandate we hope to move quickly to begin detailed discussions on the implementation period. Given the alignment in our positions we are confident we can reach political agreement by March. There remain a number of areas that we now need to discuss with the EU to ensure the period operates smoothly. We look forward to progressing substantive discussions.
As to the right hon. Gentleman’s opening remark, as he is an intelligent and well-informed person it is amazing that he does not differentiate between a £100 billion demand and a £35 billion outcome; that seems to have been a somewhat useful exercise by the Government.
As for the next stage, there is a negotiation to be undertaken. There is a variety of important areas, but the primary area for me is the question of our right to sign trade deals during the implementation period so we can bring them into force immediately after we leave. That is a massive advantage for the United Kingdom to have.
Businesses in my constituency tell me that continued membership of the single market and customs union during the transition period will help them safeguard jobs, yet the Prime Minister on 18 December ruled this out. What have the Prime Minister and Secretary of State got against the employment of people in Bristol West?
With the greatest respect to the hon. Lady, the purpose of the implementation period, which was asked for by just about every business organisation, is to ensure they face stability in the couple of years in the run-up to the conclusion of the future relationship. That is what is going to happen, and that is why companies and the CBI and others welcomed it when we announced it.