POLITICS
16/04/2020 13:00 BST | Updated 16/04/2020 13:51 BST

No.10 Completely Rules Out Brexit Transition Extension

Downing Street claims the UK must leave EU structures on December 31 so it has the flexibility to respond to coronavirus.

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Downing Street has completely ruled out extending the Brexit transition period, arguing the UK needs to leave the EU to have the flexibility to respond to the coronavirus crisis.

“We will not ask to extend the transition period and if the EU asks we will say no,” Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said on Thursday.

“Extending the transition would simply prolong the negotiations, prolong business uncertainty and delay the moment of control of our borders.

“It would also keep us bound by EU legislation at the point where we need legislative and economic flexibility to manage the UK response to the coronavirus pandemic.” 

The transition period for the UK leaving the EU expires on December 31, with a deadline to request an extension set for June 30.

For the duration of the transition period, the UK remains in the European single market with little to no change for businesses and ordinary citizens.

Some have argued that this standstill period should be extended into next year, with businesses already in turmoil due to the Covid-19 pandemic wary of more upheaval and economic damage and negotiators unable to meet in person.

An industry source has told HuffPost UK: ”The idea that a man-made economic hit on top of the chaos caused by Covid is helpful is beyond baffling.”

Downing Street’s comments come after British and EU negotiators agreed to stage three further rounds of talks on a post-Brexit trade deal in a bit to make “real, tangible progress” before the extension request deadline at the end of June.

UK chief negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier took stock of the technical work that has been done since the first round of negotiations in a video-conference meeting on Wednesday.

In a joint statement they said: “While this work has been useful to identify all major areas of divergence and convergence, the two sides agreed on the need to organise further negotiating rounds in order to make real, tangible progress in the negotiations by June.

“Given the ongoing coronavirus crisis, these negotiating rounds, the structure of which is set out in the terms of reference, will take place via video-conference.”

The talks, each lasting a full week, will take place in the weeks commencing April 20, May 11 and June 1, with a further high level meeting expected in June to review the progress that has been made.

The prime minister’s determination to stick to the current timetable was said to have been underlined by Frost in his latest discussions with Barnier.

It came as Tory former health secretary Stephen Dorrell invited Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy to work together on securing a transition extension.

“It is not a question of being pro or anti-Brexit; it is simply a question of avoiding additional risks to the UK economy at a time when the Office for Budget Responsibility is projecting a “reference scenario” in which UK output in 2020 is 13% less than it was in 2019 – and even Brexit supporting newspapers are projecting the ‘biggest economic shock in 300 years’.”