UK stands by commitment not to seek extension to transition period

A senior member of the UK cabinet has reaffirmed that the country’s government does not intend to seek an extension to the Brexit transition period.

Talks between the UK and EU on a possible free-trade deal are due to continue later this month. However, since the UK formally left the EU in January, there has been virtually no progress on key issues, according to the European side.

Following a meeting today, Friday, June 12, of the EU-UK Joint Committee, UK cabinet member Michael Gove took to Twitter to say: “I formally confirmed the UK will not extend the transition period and the moment for an extension has now passed.”

If no trade deal is agreed by December 31 this year, when the Brexit withdrawal agreement lapses, then the UK will begin trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, which will entail tariffs on goods being exported there, including agri-food products from Ireland.

Responding to this, Maros Sefcovic, who leads the joint committee on the EU side, said (also via Twitter): “With six months to go, lots of work remains…I’ve taken note of the UK position, confirmed by Michael Gove…not to extend, although the EU remains open.”

In subsequent comments this afternoon, Sefcovic said that the joint committee meeting – the purpose of which is to ensure the implementation of the withdrawal agreement – “took place in a very good atmosphere and I am glad that at the end of our discussion we also arrived at some positive results”.

Trade deal talks

Last Friday, June 5, the fourth round of negotiations on a trade deal between the EU and the UK came to an end, with the EU’s lead negotiator saying that there had been “no substantial progress”.

Speaking at the conclusion of last week’s talks, Michel Barnier accused the UK of failing to live up to commitments set out in the Political Declaration agreed by the two sides.

“We are asking for nothing more than what is in the Political Declaration,” Barnier argued.

“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 UK’s continued refusal to extend the transition period,” the EU negotiator added.