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Sat, 15 August 2020

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No10 insists Brexit transition period will not be extended as trade talks cancelled due to coronavirus

No10 insists Brexit transition period will not be extended as trade talks cancelled due to coronavirus

David Frost and Michel Barnier are not holding Brexit talks this week

2 min read

The Government has confirmed that despite this week’s Brexit trade talks being called off due to coronavirus the transition period will not be extended.

A spokesperson sought to quash speculation the date Britain formally leaves the EU's rules will be pushed back into 2021 due to the outbreak.

They said it is “enshrined in UK law” that the transition period, during which existing rules and regulations stay in place, will end on 31 December 2020.

The Prime Minister's Europe adviser David Frost, and Brussels' chief negotiator Michel Barnier, were due to hold the latest round of talks on Wednesday in Brussels.

Amid the Covid-19 crisis the plan was switched to do them via video-link, but they have now been abandoned completely.

It has led to the expectation Boris Johnson would ask the EU for an extension while countries deal with the outbreak, but the Government said “both sides remain fully committed to the negotiations”.

The spokesperson said: “In light of the latest guidance on coronavirus, we will not formally be convening negotiating work strands tomorrow in the way we did in the previous round.

“We expect to share a draft FTA [free-trade agreement] alongside the draft legal texts of a number of the standalone agreements in the near future still, as planned.

“Both sides remain fully committed to the negotiations and we remain in regular contact with the European Commission to consider alternative ways to continue discussions, including looking at the possibility of video conferencing or conference calls, and exploring flexibility in the structure for the coming weeks.”

And in reference to the text of The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Act, they added: “The transition period ends on 31 December 2020. This is enshrined in UK law.”

Earlier in the House of Commons the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said ministers were “confident we can get this done” without a further delay.

He told MPs: “I think that, as far as I'm aware, the negotiations can still proceed given all of the logistical arrangements that have been put in place.

"We're confident that we can get this done and, actually, I don't think delaying Brexit negotiations would give anyone the certainty on either side of the Channel that they need."