'No extension' on EU transition being sought by UK government, senior minister says

Wed 10 Jun 2020
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

egg timer sitting on 31 December date

The UK will not be seeking an extension to the period for transitioning out of the EU, due to end on 31 December 2020, a senior minister confirmed yesterday in parliament.

Penny Mordaunt, the Paymaster General, told the House of Commons that the UK will inform the EU at a meeting on Friday (12 June) that it is sticking to its current timetable of fully leaving the bloc by the end of this year.

‘Trade deal by autumn’

Mordaunt, a deputy to Cabinet minister Michael Gove, added the government hoped to have a trade deal with the EU secured by autumn.

She said the UK was urging the EU to “change the format…and increase the pace of negotiations… to get a deal done for both our sakes”.

However, the insistence on leaving the EU customs union as scheduled, with reported sticking points on trade negotiations especially regarding fisheries, suggests a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU is a very real prospect.

The Guardian reported that Mordaunt suggested yesterday that no-deal planning was back on the table. When asked what preparations the government was making if the talks failed, Mordaunt replied that it “would be prudent and wise for us to prepare for every scenario”.

Marco Forgione, director general of the IOE&IT said that the Paymaster General’s remarks yesterday “are the firmest indicator yet to those trading with the EU that a new customs regime is just months away and that firms need to accelerate their preparations”.

Divergence on fishing

Mordaunt admitted there had been “no movement” on chief sticking points in recent talks, in particular access to British fishing waters.

UK fishing organisations believe that the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy has meant they have not received their fair share of quotas – that is, rights to catch a certain amount of fish – in UK waters. The EU wishes key elements of the CFP to remain in place post-Brexit.

In four rounds of EU-UK talks on fisheries last week, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier was expected to table a compromise deal on fishing rights.

However, the Observer reported on Sunday 7 June, the proposal was blocked by EU member states with large fishing interests.