Amid criticism, UK government tries to show unity on Brexit

LONDON (AP) — The British government tried to fight back Sunday against criticisms that it is divided and unprepared for Brexit, saying it will set out detailed plans for the U.K.’s exit from the European Union and issuing a joint statement by two Cabinet rivals over Europe.

Trade Secretary Liam Fox, a strong supporter of leaving the European Union, and the more pro-EU Treasury chief Philip Hammond, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that they agreed there should be a “time-limited” transition period after Britain formally leaves the bloc in 2019, to avoid a “cliff-edge” for people and businesses.

Fox and Hammond said the transition period “cannot be indefinite; it cannot be a back door to staying in the EU.” They didn’t say how long the transition would last or what rules would apply during that period.

The government also said Sunday it wants to increase pressure on the 27 other EU nations to start negotiating a “deep and special” future relationship that would include a free trade deal between Britain and the EU.

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The EU says those negotiations can’t start until sufficient progress has been made on three initial issues: how much money the U.K. will have to pay to settle its outstanding commitments to the bloc; whether security checks and customs duties will be instituted on the Irish border; and the status of 3 million EU nationals living in Britain.

The government’s Brexit department said Britain wants to show that progress on the preliminary issues has been made and “we are ready to broaden out the negotiations” by the time of an EU summit in October.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said that “with time of the essence, we need to get on with negotiating the bigger issues around our future partnership to ensure we get a deal that delivers a strong U.K. and a strong EU.”

The push comes after EU officials expressed impatience with the pace…

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