The U.K.’s Freight Transport Association (FTA) welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s call this week for a transition period as a key priority for Brexit negotiations. But, as May’s Tories grip on power continues to erode against an ascendant Labor party, the prime minister’s pragmatic turn might be too little, too late, and the future of U.K.-E.U. trade remains unclear.
Nonetheless, the FTA is cheering the development, saying that a transition period, which eliminates the threat of a “hard-Brexit,” will “enable the preparation of the necessary systems and processes to ensure that post-Brexit trade can run smoothly.”
“Mrs. May’s speech in Florence finally recognized the complexities of the trading relationships and processes which will need to be agreed and implemented,” said Pauline Bastidon, FTA’s head of European Policy. “Her call for a transitional period, to give enough time for negotiators to conclude a trade agreement, and for authorities and businesses to adapt, is a huge relief for a logistics industry charged with ensuring that trade continues to move smoothly after Brexit.”
Bastidon said that May’s speech signaled an awareness of how challenging it will be for logistics companies to adapt to new trade impediments. That said, she stressed that “It is now imperative that the intentions outlined in Mrs. May’s speech are followed by concrete actions.”
Bastidon’s words echoed other observers, many of whom also doubted that May’s latest speech will translate into meaningful developments. The Guardian’s Anne Perkins accused the prime minister of “operating in a parallel universe.”
May’s pragmatism won’t garner much support from the hard-right Tories, and with Jeremy Corbin looking more and more like the country’s next prime minister, her pragmatic signaling could well go nowhere. A few days after May’s speech in Florence, European Council president Donald Tusk welcomed what he described as a “realistic tone” from the U.K. government, adding that “this shows that the philosophy of having a cake and eating it is finally coming at an end – at least I hope so.”