According to an article published today (April 22nd), as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, several top members of the civil service are appealing to the UK Government to extend the current Brexit transition period which began when the UK left the European Union at the end of January and is currently set to expire at the end of December. It cites Bob Kerslake, former head of the home civil service:

“The timetable for delivering a trade deal was already extremely ambitious. The lost time as a consequence of Covid-19 has moved this from being ambitious to almost impossible,”

“Given the severe economic impact of the pandemic, the priority must be to avoid any more economic shocks and focus on the recovery. In the circumstances, the public would accept a delay and I am genuinely puzzled why the government hasn’t moved to confirm this.”

His predecessor, Gus O’Donnell, also stated:

“More time could lead to a better outcome for both sides.” “Clearly there has been much less time for negotiation than could ever have been anticipated.”

However, the UK Government has so far resisted these calls, according to the article:

Yet the government insists that not only will it not request an extension, it will refuse any EU request for one. “We will not ask to extend,” said a Downing Street official in a recent briefing, “and, if the EU asks, we will say no.”

While the article presents the arguments for extending the transition period fairly comprehensively, it doesn't state the government's reasoning for wanting to avoid an extension. I wondered whether it was perhaps just an appeal to the Conservative voter base, but a recent YouGov poll suggests that a majority of those who voted Conservative in the last election would support an extension.

What are the government's arguments for neither seeking nor accepting an extension to the transition period?


1 Answer 1


When the government announced on the 16th April that it wouldn't countenance a transition extension the statement claimed

“We will not ask to extend the transition. And, if the EU asks, we will say no. Extending the transition would simply prolong the negotiations, prolong business uncertainty, and delay the moment of control of our borders,”

The Financial Times article above has a further quote that

“It would also keep us bound by EU legislation at a point where we need economic and legislative flexibility to manage the UK response to the coronavirus pandemic,”

David Frost, the UK negotiator also tweeted

Extending would simply prolong negotiations, create even more uncertainty, leave us liable to pay more to the EU in future, and keep us bound by evolving EU laws at a time when we need to control our own affairs. In short, it is not in the UK's interest to extend.

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