June 26, 2018 / 11:47 AM / 5 months ago

Mandelson calls for extension in EU divorce talks

FILE PHOTO: An EU flag and Union flag are seen flying together during an anti-Brexit protest near the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, December 8, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should ask the European Union for more time for exit talks to avoid a “blind” Brexit that maximises uncertainty for the country’s financial services, a British lawmaker and former top EU official said on Tuesday.

Peter Mandelson, a member of the House of Lords from the main opposition Labour Party and a former EU trade commissioner, said Britain has decided it won’t remain inside any of the EU’s structures and will become a “third country”.

“In doing that, we have not, at the same time, decided what’s an alternative plan we want to devise and put in place,” Mandelson told an Investment Association conference.

Until the government decides that it wants a deal with the EU and what that deal should be, there was nothing for the 27 other countries in the EU to discuss, he said.

“I personally don’t think that we can now hammer out a deal with the EU27 in the current Article 50 timescale,” Mandelson said.

Article 50 refers to the period for talks on the terms of Britain’s departure and an and outline of future trading relations, due to end in March next year. The rest of the EU countries would need to give their unanimous agreement for it to be extended.

“I think the British government should be seeking an extension of that timescale ... We face the prospect of a blind Brexit ... maximum regulatory uncertainty,” Mandelson said.

Helena Morrissey, head of personal investing at Legal & General Investment Management, said “kicking cans down the road” by asking for an extension risked prolonging uncertainty for the financial sector, and a trade-off has to be made.

Reporting by Huw Jones, editing by Larry King

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