Despite calls from leftists and Europhiles to extend the Brexit transition period because of coronavirus, the government has said that it is sticking by the legally mandated exit date of December 31st, 2020.
The UK left the European Union on January 31st but remains in a transition period until the end of 2020. During the transition period, the UK continues to abide by EU rules while the two parties negotiate a future trade deal.
While the coronavirus pandemic has brought face-to-face negotiations to a halt, talks via video link continue. Britain’s negotiator David Frost will discuss with his European counterpart Michel Barnier next Wednesday on how discussions should take place in a virtual setting in the next two months.
A Number 10 spokesman said on Wednesday in comments reported by City A.M.: “David Frost and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will speak early next week to work out a timetable for negotiations by remote means in April and May.”
🇺Today, my team & I spoke to prepare the weeks ahead. Our work @EU_Commission continues, even though we are living through difficult times. Next Wednesday, I will speak to @DavidGHFrost to organise upcoming negotiation rounds.
Wishing all those who are unwell a speedy recovery! pic.twitter.com/CRmFiYe77p
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) April 8, 2020
Mr Barnier, who is recovering from coronavirus, also tweeted confirmation that “despite living through difficult times”, the two parties will organise “upcoming negotiation rounds”.
Earlier this year, the government said that if a free trade deal is not agreed by around June, British negotiators will cease talks and the country will plan for an orderly entrance into World Trade Organization (WTO) terms by 2021.
While the UK and EU can extend the transition period for up to a further two years, Britain’s Brexit legislation enshrines in law the December exit date, which has proved unpopular with Europhile politicians.
Labour’s new leader, the centrist Remainer Sir Keir Starmer said on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that the government putting into law the exit date was a “mistake”.
While the Scottish National Party (SNP) Westminster leader Ian Blackford and acting Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, calling on him to suspend negotiations and ask the EU permission to extend the transition period.
EU Lawmakers Pressure UK to Extend Brexit Transition Due to Coronavirus https://t.co/OLnHYLrAY9
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 31, 2020
After Members of the European Parliament put pressure last week on the UK to extend the transition period, an EU source told The Guardian this week that the UK sticking to the December deadline was “like fantasy land”.
In response, a government spokesman said on Wednesday: “We remain fully committed to the negotiations, and as we have been clear, discussions with the commission are continuing, with the aim of reaching an agreement by the end of the year. The transition period ends on December 31st 2020, as enshrined in EU law, which the Prime Minister has made clear he has no intention of changing.”
The UK has consistently maintained that it will finally fulfil the people’s mandate to leave the EU entirely. Cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Dominic Raab stated last month that the UK’s exit from Brussels’ laws and institutions would not be further delayed.
On the issue of not getting a trade deal with the EU, the now-Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said in February as Treasury secretary that the UK does not need an agreement with the bloc.
“We have left. There are lots of other ways that countries trade with each other,” Mr Sunak had said.
Coronavirus: Boris Says No to Brexit Extension https://t.co/dxxsoPR0ck
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 19, 2020