Britain's Brexit minister David Davis is "not really interested" in a transitional deal to cushion the country from the effects of leaving the European Union, he told a private meeting with the City of London Corporation, the Financial Times reported on Friday.
The FT, citing a memo of a meeting on November 15 made by an unidentified City of London Corporation representative, said Davis would consider a transitional deal only in order to "be kind" to the EU.
British business has argued the government should agree a transition period after the UK leaves the bloc and before new trade terms are finalized, during which current arrangements stay in place.
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said the memo was merely an interpretation of the meeting, and that Davis "has been engaging with a wide range of businesses as part of the preparations for negotiations."
Last month May, who has said she will invoke Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty that triggers the exit negotiations by the end of March 2017, assured businesses they would not fall off a legal "cliff edge" in 2019 — her clearest signal yet that she may consider a transitional deal.
Also over the past week, Davis has given more positive signals about possible arrangements to support a Brexit soft landing, saying Britain would consider making payments to the EU after it leaves to achieve the best possible access for businesses to the bloc's markets.
Large banks in Britain want the UK government to allow their industry to remain subject to EU laws for up to five years after Brexit, Reuters reported on Friday.
Davis told the meeting with the City of London Corporation that Britain's sudden departure could compromise the EU's financial stability and said he would be more in favor if the EU asked Britain for a transition.
"I will be kind," he said, according to the Corporation's account of the meeting, the FT said.
Davis was also quoted as saying that the EU's "inflexible approach" on immigration meant it was unlikely the UK would achieve access to the single market.
But he said a trade deal such as the Canada-EU agreement would be relatively easy to secure and would not pose a significant problem for the UK because "most advantages" would be gained, said the newspaper.