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UK insists on fixed end for Brexit transition; paper suggests it sought leeway

The U.K. asserted that a Brexit transition period will have a fixed end-date after a leaked government document suggested that Britain would seek a longer bridging phase if needed, The Guardian reported.

A government position paper shared with EU member states showed the U.K. supporting a two-year transition period, but officials also wanted to discuss a flexible duration with the EU.

"The U.K. believes the period's duration should be determined simply by how long it will take to prepare and implement the new processes and new systems that will underpin the future relationship," the draft document said.

A British government spokesman insisted that a Brexit transition deal with the EU will include an end-date, while a cabinet minister said an open-ended transition period was just "wishful thinking," according to The Guardian.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May had proposed a two-year transition period with identical arrangements to those already in place once Brexit takes effect in March 2019. The EU said a transitional period to preserve current trading terms should not last beyond Dec. 31, 2020.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, said earlier this month that a transition period "is not a given" due to persisting disagreements with the U.K. A draft document also showed in January that the EU had toughened up its demands for a transition deal.

However, on Brexit transition, the newly leaked U.K. position paper said "there is broad alignment between the U.K. and EU positions, with only a small number of areas requiring discussion," according to Reuters.

The next phase of Brexit talks between the U.K. and EU are set to begin following a "divorce agreement" struck between London and Brussels in December 2017.