The complexity of the task of negotiating a free trade deal between the UK and the EU cannot be underestimated. The UK and the EU have a deep relationship, built on 40 years of economic integration. Reflecting that will require both parties to commit to seeking the most ambitious free trade deal ever signed. There is a real possibility that – with the best political will in the world – that deal will not be agreed, ratified and in force by the deadline provided by Article 50.
To provide the certainty that businesses need, transitional arrangements will be required. As far as possible, those transitional arrangements should replicate as much of the economic relationship that is in place between the UK and the EU at the moment. The simplest way of achieving that would be for negotiators to agree that the UK should remain in the single market and a customs union until a new deal is in force. Agreement of this would secure continuity for business operations, protect ease of trade between the UK and the EU, and give negotiators the time they need to make Brexit a success for both sides.