Curiously, the 107,000-word draft divorce treaty had one gap left in it when it was published this week. The maximum extension of the U.K.’s post-Brexit transition period appeared in the text as “up to 31 December 20XX.”
Officials on both sides say they have only until the planned summit of EU leaders on Nov. 25 to replace the blanks with a specific year.
The issue is divisive in the U.K. because pro-Brexit lawmakers consider the transition period leaves Britain a “vassal state.” The U.K. will stick to EU rules as if it were still a member but loses any say in decision-making.
Initially, the plan was for the transition to last from the moment the U.K. leaves the EU on March 29, 2019 until Dec. 31, 2020. But the British government asked for the possibility of that being extended in case the final trade deal isn’t ready in time.
The draft deal allows for one extension of the transition period beyond 2020 as long as it’s agreed by both the U.K. and EU and decided on before July that year. There’s no agreement on the maximum length yet.