Brexit Secretary David Davis has signalled he is prepared to accept a shorter transition period than the UK wanted.
Mr Davis said he could “live with” the proposed arrangement ending in December 2020, rather than the March 2021 date London has asked for, if that would help secure a deal.
The Brexit Secretary, who is to meet the European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday, said the EU and the UK would establish a joint committee during a transition period to guarantee a “duty of good faith” by both sides.
Prime Minister Theresa May has called for an implementation period of “around two years” after Britain formally quits the EU in March 2019.
Mr Davis said his priority was to secure an agreement on the transition phase at next week’s EU heads of government summit, telling BBC2’s Newsnight: “That is more important to me than a few months either way. So, I’m not bothered too much about the question of whether it is Christmas 2020 or Easter 2021.”
Asked if he could live with the transition ending in December 2020, Mr Davis said: “I would live with that. We are still in the middle of a negotiation. Frankly, what I would not do is delay the decision in order to get a month or two more.”
Mr Davis downplayed concerns expressed by arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg Britain would be a “vassal state” during the transition.
The Brexit Secretary said most EU laws take two years to pass, which is three months longer than the proposed transition timetable.
Mr Davis said: “It is not going to be a big material issue. But we want to have in place, and we will have in place, is a joint committee which will oversee any issues like this that come up and a duty of good faith, good faith on both sides so neither side is disadvantaged. So, we won’t fall into Mr Rees-Mogg’s interesting definition of our position.”
Mr Davis said his team had been working “flat out” in discussions with the EU, mainly in Brussels, adding: “That will continue through this weekend, and I shall join them on Sunday, and we’ll have another meeting with Michel on Monday.”
The Brexit Secretary said the talks with Brussels were “just one strand” and he would be holding other meetings before the upcoming European Council summit.
He said: “It’s the council that make the decision on what our future partnership will be. That’s the member states. The council is made up of member states.
“I will be going around talking to them, listening to their concerns, explain what we’ve got in mind, what we aim to do and understanding what their interests are and their concerns are. So we can incorporate that and make sure that we get the right decision.”