Michael Gove 'formally confirms' that UK won't extend Brexit transition period

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK
Michael Gove has "formally confirmed" the UK will not seek an extension to the Brexit transition period. (PA)

Michael Gove has formally confirmed the UK will not ask for an extension to the Brexit transition period.

The UK, after leaving the EU on 31 January, is currently in a “transition period” in which the two sides have until 31 December to agree their future relationship.

Because of the coronavirus crisis, there have been calls for Number 10 to extend the transition period, with leaders primarily focused on the pandemic.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly insisted he will not ask for a delay, despite businesses and critics warning of the dangers of a departure without a trade agreement in place.

However, speaking this afternoon, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said: “The moment for extension has now passed.”

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said Friday’s EU-UK meeting was “positive” - but hinted that there is still more to do. (AP)

Mr Gove held the second joint committee agreed under the Withdrawal Agreement with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic on Friday.

In a post on Twitter, Gove said he had chaired a “constructive” meeting with Sefcovic.

He said: “I formally confirmed the UK will not extend the transition period & the moment for extension has now passed.

“On January 1, 2021, we will take back control and regain our political & economic independence.”

But Sefcovic told a briefing in Brussels that the EU “remains open to such an extension”.

UK sources were keen to depict the meeting as the last formal opportunity to request an extension to the transition period, as it is the last scheduled meeting of the joint committee before the July 1 deadline.

Both sides can agree to hold another such meeting, where under the Withdrawal Agreement a delay could be asked for.

Sefcovic said today’s meeting was “positive” - but hinted that there is still more to do.

Speaking at the European Commission press briefing, he said: “I have to underline that the meeting took place in very good atmosphere and I am glad that at the end of our discussions we also arrived at some positive results, which I believe would pave the way forward for the proper implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

Michel Barnier said that there has been no progress in Brexit talks between the EU and UK. (European Commission)

He added: “However, with some six months to go before the end of the transition period we still have lots of work to do.”

Last week, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK “continues to backtrack” on its previous commitments to the EU made under the political declaration agreed in October last year.

Barnier said the UK was “seeking to distance itself” from negotiations, adding: “There have been no significant areas of progress. I don’t think we can go on like this forever.”

Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, wrote to the Prime Minister on Friday calling on him to request the extension, saying it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to end the transition in the new year.

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