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Leaked documents show UK will stay in single market

Published:  08 December, 2017

The UK will remain a member of the EU's customs union and single market between 2019 and 2021 according to a leaked copy of European Council guidelines for upcoming trade talks.

The guidelines, which came to light following from this morning’s announcement that the UK government could be approaching “divorce bill” agreement with the EU, appear to suggest the UK will continue to follow the existing structure of EU rules and regulations during a two-year transition period.

In practice, this means the UK will retain the free movements of goods, services, capital and labour in the single market - although new long-term arrivals from the EU will have to register during the proposed two-year transition period.

The UK could also retain membership of the customs union, which would restrict the UK’s ability to sign new trade deals.

Informal negotiations with other countries might still be possible, however.

Progress on the so-called “divorce bill” was made this morning when it was agreed that there will be no "hard border" with Ireland, and also that EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU will have their rights protected.

May said EU citizens already working in the UK would have their rights "enshrined in UK law and enforced by British courts" which will come as welcome news for many workers, including those employed by the UK’s wine and hospitality industries. 

If full ratification is given by the European Council at next Thursday’s summit, then post-Brexit trade talks could begin as soon as the end of next week.