UK Tells EU It Wants No Extension of Post-Brexit Transition Past 2020
London’s decision has made the prospect of a no-deal Brexit very likely.
The British government has formally told the EU that it will not use the option of seeking an extension of the post-Brexit transition period beyond December 31, 2020.
Since the UK officially left the European Union on January 31, 2020, the two parties have been involved in largely stalemated talks on the nature of their post-Brexit economic relationship.
The post-Brexit transition period for the negotiations set until the end of 2020 in the Withdrawal Agreement could have been extended by up to two years, that is, all the way until 2023.
For that to happen, the UK would have had to request the extension from the EU by July 1, 2020.
On Friday, however, the British government made it clear to the EU that it was not going to seek an extension.
Given the failure to achieve a breakthrough in the post-Brexit talks so far, the decision of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet is already facing fears that the EU and UK might ultimately part without a trade deal in place on December 31, which in turn could cause serious economic damages.
“That’s it. We are leaving the European Union on December 31,” senior UK minister Michael Gove told British television on Friday after finishing online talks with his EU counterparts, as cited by AFP and France24.
“[Gove] couldn’t be clearer. I take this as a definite conclusion of this discussion,” said in Brussels EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic, the Vice President of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight.
Senior British government figures, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself, had previously indicated that the UK was not going to seek an extension of the post-Brexit transition in order for a trade deal with the EU to be achieved.
On Friday, however, the British authorities also cited the economic pressure caused by the coronavirus crisis as a factor in the decision not to ask Brussels for an extension.
As the UK economy contracted by a fifth between March and April, London said it would allow UK companies to delay submitting customs declarations and making tariff payments on their exports to EU nations for up to six months, until July 2021.
In the case of a potential second wave of the pandemic, the declarations and payments delay could be extended even further.
No such measures have been announced by the EU for exports from the 27 member states to Britain.
In the post-Brexit trade talks so far, the EU and the UK have only managed to achieve progress on less fundamental issues such as security cooperation and data protection rules.
However, the last couple of months have underscored persisting disagreements on major bones of contention such as fishing rights, and, more notably, the UK’s refusal to accept EU environmental, health, safety and state aid rules as well as the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
The EU argues that would violate the Union’s competition rules and would give UK firms an unfair advantage.
The Johnson Cabinet argues in turn that freedom from EU regulation was the main point of Brexit.
The decision to abstain from seeking an extension on the post-Brexit negotiations was opposed by opposition MPs in the British Parliament, and the first ministers of Scotland and Wales, BBC News reported.
On Friday evening, ministers from the devolved administrations of Scotland and Wales withdrew from a scheduled conference call with UK ministers in protest at their decision to rule out a delay, saying their views had been “dismissed”.
(Banner image: Michael Gove on Twitter)