British finance minister Philip Hammond on Monday backed the idea of a transition period to smooth the process of leaving the European Union, and said EU countries also stood to gain from a gradual Brexit.
In a hint of the differences that have emerged within Britain's government over its strategy for leaving the bloc, Hammond said businesses, regulators and "thoughtful politicians" were increasingly supportive of a transition period.
Britain is due to launch a two-year process of Brexit negotiations by the end of March and the European Commission has said it wants an even shorter period for the talks, saying they should be completed by October 2018.
That tight deadline has raised concerns among businesses, including many British-based financial services firms, about what will happen if the new relationship is not agreed by then.
Prime Minister Theresa May said last month she understood business concerns that Britain could fall off a "cliff-edge" after the negotiations and she promised to address those fears in Brexit talks.
Speaking on Monday, Hammond - considered to be one of the most prominent advocates of a so-called "soft" Brexit - said a transition could be used to phase in the terms of a deal successfully negotiated during the two-year divorce period, or to bridge the lack of a final settlement.