'Theresa May is set to ask the European Union for an extra transition period that would see full Brexit delayed until around seven years after the vote to Leave.
Under the plans, briefed by government officials to The Times newspaper, the whole of the United Kingdom would stay aligned with EU regulations and customs procedures until 2023 to help avoid a hard border in Ireland. It comes on top of a two-year transition period from 2019 to the start of 2021 which has already been agreed.
The latest plan for a longer transition is intended as a replacement for the border “backstop” agreed by negotiators in December under which the UK would “maintain full alignment” with the single market if no other solution could be found, to remove the need for border checks.
Despite having been agreed in theory, that earlier policy now faces opposition from both the DUP and Brexiteers in the Cabinet – but for different reasons, and the UK Government now says it is “unacceptable” and will come up with new proposals.
The new plan, expected to be unveiled by the Government in early June, is extremely unlikely to be looked on favourably by Brussels – which says the backstop cannot be time-limited and must apply only to Northern Ireland.
The old “backstop” agreed in December originally looked like a done deal, but is now being interpreted in such different ways by the EU and UK that it is again a major barrier to concluding a withdrawal agreement.
Whatever backstop is agreed, it now looks increasingly likely to come into play on the Northern Ireland border – with no other solution to the customs conundrum on the horizon.
If agreed, the new plan would effectively extend the Brexit process to at least seven years. Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s old ambassador to the EU, was criticised after he advised ministers in 2016 that leaving the EU would take around 10 years. He stepped down from his post shortly after.'
Read more: Full Brexit set to take seven years as Theresa May seeks extra transition period
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