Senior minister Michael Gove revealed that the government has no ‘no-deal’ preparations, compromising the UK’s negotiating position that it is serious about leaving the EU’s institutions with or without a deal.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made the revelation while giving evidence during the Committee on the Future Relationship with the EU on Monday.
“We don’t have any plans to stand up operation Yellowhammer again because we are confident we will secure an agreement,” Mr Gove said, referencing the 2019 plans to deal with the UK leaving the EU in a clean break.
The minister added, according to The Times, that as well as there being no active plans, some 50 civil servants working on Brexit had been redeployed to working on coronavirus pandemic planning.
He then claimed — despite the lack of fall-back preparations, the deadline just eight months away, and the confessed “limited progress” made on negotiations — he was confident there was a “better than two to one” chance of striking a deal.
Rejecting suggestions that the transition period may be extended, he said in what appear to be hopeful terms: “I think the COVID crisis, in some respects, should concentrate the minds of EU negotiators, reinforcing the vital importance of coming to a conclusion.”
Merkel Ally Tells UK: Extend Transition Period Until up to 2023 https://t.co/TaL97JYomI
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 27, 2020
While the UK officially left the bloc on January 29th, 2020, the country remains subject to the EU’s rules in the 11-month transition period during which Brussels and London are working to agree on a future trade deal.
The media revealed Operation Yellowhammer plans in September 2018, and later when the government made plans public, its existence signalled that the UK was serious about leaving the bloc with or without a deal or, at the time, a transition period.
However, May removed the leverage, when it was revealed in early April 2019 that the government had wound down no-deal planning, with Brexiteers warning that it weakened the UK’s hand in EU negotiations. During May’s leadership, Brexit was delayed twice, despite threats to the contrary.
Under his early premiership, Prime Minister Johnson touted that the UK would leave the EU after the transition period regardless of whether it had a trade deal or not, told civil servants in August to make preparing for no deal “top priority”, and enshrined in law that the UK would leave the EU on December 31st, 2020.
The UK has been under mounting pressure from Europhiles, leftists, and EU politicians to delay Brexit because of coronavirus, with a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Norbert Röttgen saying on Sunday that he did not think there was a “realistic possibility” of the two sides agreeing to a deal by the deadline, and that “you have to extend”.
However, other sources speaking to the media have said that European countries have admitted the UK leaving without extending and without a deal would make little difference, given the upheaval already caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Johnson’s spokesman later told The Telegraph: “We are leaving the transition period on December 31, we will work with the EU to try to do that with a deal. But nobody should be in any doubt that the transition period is going to end on December 31.”
Farage: We Mustn’t Accept a Brexit Delay Because of Coronavirus https://t.co/XxNjqiLUyE
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 15, 2020