Brexit biggest peacetime challenge to face a British gov't: chancellor

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-02 21:34:57|Editor: liuxin
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LONDON, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond on Monday described Brexit as one of the most challenging tasks ever faced by a peacetime government in Britain.

Addressing the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Hammond added in his keynote speech that Britain would succeed in its task of withdrawing from the European Union.

Repeating Prime Minister Theresa May's pledge that the government would respect the leave decision in last year's EU referendum, Hammond said the British people had chosen independence over the EU's greater integration.

Britain is scheduled to leave the EU in March 2019, with progress in the negotiations with Brussels still described as slow.

Hammond said the short-term challenge of uncertainty around the Brexit process must be resolved by accelerating negotiations with Brussels and to deliver a limited interim period of around two years for businesses to adjust. His message confirmed what May said in her speech in Florence last month that there should be a two-year transition period starting in March 2019.

Hammond added that as the government implements the referendum decision, Britain must use its new independence "in the nation's best interests to protect jobs and strengthen our economy."

"Our economic future will remain closely linked with the EU for many good reasons. But our political future will be our own. Our EU partners can go their way, but we will not join them on a voyage to ever closer union," he said.

He said the process of negotiating Britain's exit from the EU has created uncertainty so investment has slowed as businesses wait for clarity, adding: "we must remove this uncertainty."

In an upbeat plea, Hammond said: "The future prize is great. If we get this right Britain will have a bright future beyond Brexit. But to get to it, we must be clear-eyed about the challenges along our way, and in doing so, we will unleash our nation's potential."

Hammond in his keynote speech announced an investment worth almost 400 million U.S. dollars on transport projects in Northern England. The aim is to give the so-called Northern Powerhouse a boost to help the provinces better compete with London and the wealthy south-east region of Britain.

The funding will future-proof the railway network in the north, ensuring the new south-north rail project, HS2, can link up with future projects in the Northern Powerhouse and Birmingham's Midlands Engine economic strategy.