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Top UK Brexit official expects a deal to be reached for leaving the EU 'before the end of March'

David Davis said both sides should have agreed the “substantive” terms of their permanent future relationship by March 2019.

BREXIT SECRETARY DAVID Davis has insisted today that he expects the UK to reach agreement on the terms of a transition deal for leaving the European Union “before the end of March”.

The UK is set to officially leave the EU in March 2019, but plans to abide by many of the EU’s rules for around two years to make the transition more orderly.

Davis said that Britain and the EU should have agreed the “substantive” terms of their permanent future relationship by March 2019.

But the structure of the transition deal, which is expected to run until 2020/21, is the cause of heated debate.

“I would expect it before the end of March,” Davis told a parliamentary committee when asked when the terms of the transition deal would be agreed.

I’m relaxed about transition because my primary concern is about the future relationship, that’s what matters, that’s what people will judge us on in 10, 20, 30 years time.

The minister said a transition deal was essential to give governments and businesses time to adapt to the future arrangement.

Davis said that during this period, “we will be replicating to a very large extent the operations of the single market and customs union” and that the UK would remain subject to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Brexit supporters from Davis’s own Conservative party criticised the plans, saying Britain would be a “vassal state” of the EU during this period.

“If on 30 March 2019, the UK is subject to the ECJ, takes new rules relating to the single market and is paying into the European budget, are we not a vassal state?” asked MP Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Citizens rights ‘moral issue’

Davis replied that in the future Britain would no longer be bound by the rules of membership of the EU’s custom union that are currently preventing it from negotiating trade deals with nations outside the EU.

However, he did admit that this issue could be a sticking point in upcoming negotiations on the transition deal and that Britain would probably have to abide by new rules handed down by the EU during the transition, without having a say on them.

He also revealed that Britain would continue paying into the EU during the transition period, potentially before all the details of the final deal have been agreed, but stressed that Britain would not pay to access the single market as part of the permanent deal.

Davis moved to calm fears of EU citizens living in Britain, saying they would be taken care of even if Britain crashed out without a deal.

“One way or another we will resolve this issue. I’d say to anyone who is worried about this issue: don’t be,” he said, calling it a “moral issue”.

Representatives from Britain’s Brexit department have been meeting with EU officials in Brussels in recent weeks, said Davis, but formal negotiations will restart in March.

British MPs gave the green light last week to a landmark Brexit bill that will transfer four decades of EU rules onto the British statute books, although it faces a battle in passing the upper House of Lords.

Read: Ireland will get two extra MEPs because of Brexit

Read: UK could get a special trade deal with the EU after Brexit – Macron says

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