Eight months before the end of the transition period the British government seems intent upon two courses of action which will exacerbate the inevitable political and economic damage to the United Kingdom when it finally withdraws from the European treaties. The government has, first, made clear that it will not seek in any circumstances an extension to the transition period; and, second, its self-serving and implausible interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland has created well-founded doubts in the EU’s collective mind about its good faith on this and related issues.
Michel Barnier and David Frost are due to resume today (15th April) their negotiations interrupted by the Coronavirus. If Brexit were a project built on rational economic or political foundations, the British government would by now have sought an extension of the transition period for the UK’s exit from the European Union. The deadline of 31st December 2020 was always an ambitious one for agreeing even the general outlines of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The economic and political disruption caused throughout Europe by the Coronavirus pandemic has now turned the retention of this disruptive deadline into an act of wanton self-harm for the UK. No rational argument has ever been put forward by the government for maintaining this deadline, beyond the mantric repetition by its spokesmen of ministers’ refusal to countenance delay. The transition period, we are told, will end on 31st December 2020 because that is the date on which the British government insists it will end.
by Dr Andrew Blick Reader in Politics and Contemporary History at King’s College London; Senior Research Fellow at the Federal Trust
13th March 2020
At some point in the coming months, political discourse in
UK will move on from its current focus on the single issue of the pandemic and
its domestic implications. At that point we will see renewed interest in a
recurring theme of the last four years: the cliff edge, after which the UK
might find itself outside the EU with no trade agreement with this organisation
in place. Following UK departure from the EU on 31 January, a transition period
came into force. It facilitates the temporary avoidance of disruption, by
continuing many aspects of membership. At present, this phase comes to an end
on 31 December 2020. There is a possibility to extend it by either one or by two
years. A decision to do so must be taken by July 2020. However, the UK
government has clearly set itself against doing so; and domestic legislation
dealing with the withdrawal agreement prevents the UK government from consenting
to any such extension.