The discussions to define the future relationship between the UK and the EU haven’t been going well. But despite a growing number of voices calling to extend the Brexit transition period, the UK government plans to tell the EU this Friday, that it won’t be seeking an extension. MP Penny Mordaunt told the House of Commons as much, which led to heated exchanges with the SNP’s Pete Wishart, who accused the government of dealing an avoidable blow to a country already reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The SNP is one of six parties urging the Tory government to extend the Brexit transition period.
2020 was to be the year when Britain and the EU negotiate a mutually beneficial deal on their future relationship. But the COVID19 crisis backdrop didn’t make for favourable negotiating conditions. Talks have been ongoing without yielding any significant positive result when it comes to contentious issues such as the fisheries, the so-called level playing field, the governance of the future relationship, and cooperation in policing and security matters where some progress has been possible. As a result, the EU has been keen to agree to an extension to allow more time to solve these issues but seems now resigned that the British government won’t seek to extend.
In his statement following the latest set of talks, Michelle Barnier said:
“Ladies and gentlemen,
we can only take note that there has been no substantial progress since the beginning of these negotiations and that we cannot continue like this forever.
Especially given the United Kingdom’s continued refusal to extend the transition period.
On our side, as President Ursula von der Leyen has said, we were always open to the possibility of a one- or two-year extension, as foreseen in the Withdrawal Agreement. Our door remains open. But if there is no joint decision on such an extension – as I understand this to be the case – the UK will leave the Single Market and the Customs Union in less than 7 months. Taking into account the time needed to ratify a deal, we would need a full legal text by 31 October at the latest, i.e. in less than 5 months.”
Barnier went on the accuse the UK government of moving away from the joint Political Declaration that was signed off by the EU 27, as well as by Boris Johnson.
“We cannot accept this backtracking on the Political Declaration. And we will request the full respect of the Withdrawal Agreement.”
Given the tight timeframe to reach an agreement, it isn’t surprising that Penny Mordaunt hinted that planning for a no-deal was back on the table, this despite the Prime Minister assuring us in a Daily Telegraph article last November that ‘a deal is oven-ready’.
Scotland and Northern Ireland call for Brexit transition period extension as petition edges closer to 100’000 signatures
Both the SNP and Scottish Labour Party have urged the Tory government to rethink and extend the transition period. In Northern Ireland, the Stormont Assembly has voted in favour of a non-binding motion calling on the UK government to seek an extension. The Assembly is in a unique position as a named party in the Withdrawal Agreement.
Meanwhile, a petition to “extend the transition; delay negotiations until after the coronavirus outbreak” is edging ever closer toward reaching the 100’000 signatures required to compel the government to consider discussing the matter in Parliament.
The deadline for requesting an extension is on 30 June.