LONDON: Theresa May’s insistence that a Brexit trade deal with the EU must be reached within two years is already causing unnecessary damage to the economy by compounding uncertainty for businesses, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has warned. In response to No 10’s Brexit plan, the mayor on Monday called on the prime minister to prioritise striking an interim deal with the EU that would secure access to the single market and avoid a “cliff-edge” for British businesses. He applied further pressure on May to heed warnings coming from businesses and the City of London on the same day Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, said she would push for a second independence referendum. No 10 has made clear it believes a trade deal with the EU can be struck in parallel with divorce talks over the next two years.
Ministers have stressed they are prepared to leave the EU with no trade deal at all, falling back on World Trade Organisation’s tariffs, if Brussels is not prepared to strike fair new trading arrangements. However, Khan questioned May’s claim that no EU trade deal is better than a bad deal, saying it fundamentally underestimates the “colossal damage” that having no deal would cause. He said the government’s lack of interest in striking an interim trade deal was a mistake and already causing difficulties for businesses, which are not feeling reassured about the plan. “I believe that the government’s unrealistic expectation of having trade negotiations concluded within two years of triggering article 50 – with no plan for extending this period – is compounding uncertainty and risks, causing unnecessary damage to our economy,” Khan said.