Brexit: Raab Rejects Transition Extension Because of Coronavirus

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 15: Former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dominic Raab speaks to the media during a press conference to offer an alternative Brexit plan on January 15, 2019 in London, England. Dominic Raab and David Davis, two former cabinet secretaries who resigned in protest …
Leon Neal/Getty

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has rejected the suggestion that the UK should delay the Brexit transition period leaving date because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK is currently in a transition period where it remains tied to the EU’s rules and has continued access to the Customs Union and Single Market until December 31st, 2020 despite being theoretically free of the bloc. During this time, London and Brussels negotiators will agree on a trade deal; if one is not agreed, the UK will trade with the bloc on World Trade Organization terms at the end of the year.

Addressing the House of Commons chamber on Tuesday, Mr Raab said that, “if anything”, the coronavirus crisis demonstrates “the case for intensive diplomacy to get this deal done and move on and take the relationship [with the EU] to the next level”.

The foreign secretary made the remarks in response to a call by Exeter Labour MP Ben Bradshaw that the UK and EU should “urgently” agree on an extension to the transition period in order to avoid the “shock” of a “no-deal Brexit”.

“We’re confident that we can get this done and, actually, I don’t think delaying Brexit negotiations would give anyone the certainty on either side of the Channel that they need,” Mr Raab also said in response to a question on delaying negotiations by Labour MP Stephen Kinnock.

Last week, Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy had said that the UK “must” extend the transition period because of the Wuhan virus’s impact on the economy.

Minister Michael Gove admitted earlier this month that the outbreak could delay talks but asserted that the UK will leave on time. On Friday, the UK and EU announced that face-to-face negotiations slated for this week in London would be postponed, while negotiators explore alternatives including video-conferencing. It would not be impossible, given that G7 leaders were able to hold an emergency meeting on coronavirus on Monday across multiple time zones via videoconferencing.

There have been a number of reports by the establishment media in recent weeks demanding that the UK’s exit from the bloc’s institutions be postponed.

Sociologist Frank Furedi wrote for Spiked on Monday that “‘experts'” were turning coronavirus “into a battleground for pre-existing political and cultural conflicts”, including Brexit.

Citing an article in The Observer, which portends that “Brexit means coronavirus vaccine will be slower to reach the UK”, Emeritus Professor Furedi wrote that the Sunday sister paper of the liberal-left Guardian’s “casual transformation of Brexit into a threat to public health is a classic example of politicising an illness”.

Citing other examples in the left-wing press, he added: “The fact that we are in the middle of a global pandemic and yet raging against the Tories and Brexit still motivates much of the media class confirms that the UK faces far more difficulties than the threat of Covid-19.”

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