Boris Johnson is adamant that he won’t extend the Brexit transition period, despite MEPs calling for more time in the wake of coronavirus.
The European People’s Party (EPP), the largest bloc in the EU Parliament, warned the UK will face a “double whammy” if the PM insists on sticking to the timetable of leaving at the end of the year.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The transition period ends on December 31 2020. This is enshrined in UK law.”
But MEP Christophe Hansen, a negotiator on the European Parliament’s international trade committee, said the virus crisis complicated an already tight timescale.
She said: “Under these extraordinary circumstances, I cannot see how the UK Government would choose to expose itself to the double whammy of the coronavirus and the exit from the EU single market, which will inevitably add to the disruption, deal or no deal.
“I can only hope that common sense and substance will prevail over ideology.
“An extension of the transition period is the only responsible thing to do.”
Informal talks between the UK and Brussels are continuing – despite lead negotiations on both sides of the Channel having been struck down by Covid-19.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is reportedly still recovering after contracting the disease earlier this month.
And his British counterpart David Frost is also in self-isolation.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We have shared legal texts and they are the subject of informal discussions between ourselves and the European Commission.
“They are conversations that are taking place via telephone as both sides analyse each other’s respective legal texts.
“We’d expect those types of conversations to be carrying on this week.”
German MEP David McAllister, who chairs the UK co-ordination group in the European Parliament, said now was the time for the UK to change tack over an extension to the transition.
“The coronavirus pandemic complicates the already very ambitious schedule,” he said.
“The EU has always been open to extending the transition period. The ball is now clearly in the British court.
“The United Kingdom would have to submit an official request. So far, the UK Government has constantly rejected such an option.
“Under the current circumstances, London should carefully re-examine a prolongation.”