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Theresa May Admits Defeat On Crucial Brexit Policy

Theresa May has been accused of backing away from a key Brexit promise after she appeared to concede that a trade deal with the EU cannot be signed until after the UK leaves.
Opponents of a hard Brexit called on the Prime Minister to ensure that a transitional agreement was in place to avoid the risk of disruption to business if the UK makes a "cliff edge" departure from the EU without a trade deal.

Speaking during a visit to Jordan, Ms May said she expected the shape of a new trade relationship to be clear to everybody by Brexit Day in March 2019, but appeared to accept that the formal conclusion of the agreement will have to wait until after withdrawal.

European Council president Donald Tusk left no doubt in his draft guidelines for negotiations, released on Friday, that EU rules state that trade deals can only be done with non-members, so that the most the UK can hope for prior to Brexit is an "overall understanding on the framework for the future relationship".

Ms May insisted it will be possible to reach clarity on the deal within two years.

But asked if the deal could be finalised in that timescale, she told Sky News: "There's obviously a legal situation in terms of how the EU can conduct trade negotiations.

"I'm clear that by the point at which we leave the EU, it's right that everybody should know what the future arrangements, the future relationship, that future partnership between us and the European Union will be.

"That's the sensible thing, it's the pragmatic way to look at this, and I believe that's what we will do."

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