After Florence, what next?



Global economic freedom up slightly; UK ranks 10th among 159 jurisdictions

IEA Brexit Unit reacts to the Prime Minister's speech in Florence

In narrow terms, the Prime Minister’s Brexit speech in Florence can be judged against two tests. First, will the offers on the financial settlement and citizens’ rights represent ‘sufficient progress’ to allow talks on the future relationship to begin at last? And second, will the plan for a two-year transition period be enough to ease the widespread fears about a cliff-edge departure?

In both cases, the speech is a helpful step forward, even if more will be needed. Criticisms that the speech lacked substance, merely ‘kicks the can down the road’, or is a ‘betrayal of Brexit’, all seem unfair.

But it is also important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. Above all, any transition period must only be a stepping stone. The final destination should be a new and comprehensive free trade deal with the EU that also permits the UK to have a more open relationship with the rest of the world and smarter regulation at home. This surely means leaving both the Customs Union and the Single Market well behind.

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Julian Jessop is an independent economist with over thirty years of experience gained in the public sector, City and consultancy, including senior positions at HM Treasury, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and Capital Economics. He was Chief Economist and Head of the Brexit Unit at the IEA until December 2018 and continues to support our work, especially schools outreach, on a pro bono basis.