Lisa Nandy urges Boris Johnson to ditch 'narrow ideology' and extend EU transition period to deal with coronavirus
Boris Johnson should put the "interests of the nation" first and extend the EU transition period to deal with the coronavirus, Lisa Nandy has said.
The Labour leadership contender called on the Prime Minister to avoid "narrow partisan ideology" and ask Brussels to extend the post-Brexit period of close alignment beyond the end of 2020.
Trade talks with the EU have already begun, and Downing Street has ruled out extending the transition period in the wake of the global spread of Covid-19.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak this weekend said the public was "fed up having more delays".
But, writing in The Guardian, Ms Nandy argued that such a move could soften the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on businesses.
"British companies who trade with the EU do not know what terms they’ll be trading on in 10 months’ time," she said.
"Add to this the falling demand and disruption created by coronavirus and it is reasonable to expect many businesses will not survive.”
The transition period was agreed in the UK's divorce deal with the EU last year, and sees Britain remain a member of the single market and the customs union until the end of this year.
But Ms Nandy warned: "The Government has boxed itself into a corner by legislating to end the transition period in December come what may.
"It now faces a direct choice between narrow partisan ideology and the interests of the nation. An extension will mean that British citizens living abroad will be able to access free healthcare for at least another year, that we are able to continue to access the early warning and response system [EWRS] that helped us coordinate Sars and bird flu. Public safety is at stake. This must happen now."
'EMERGENCY ECONOMIC COUNCIL'
Amid continued market turmoil over the spread of the disease, Ms Nandy called for a "long-term approach to this crisis", including the setting up of an "emergency economic council" involving experts with experience of the 2008 financial crisis.
The Wigan MP also urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to slash VAT in this week's Budget and allow struggling firms to defer payments to help them stay "afloat".
The Telegraph reports that Mr Sunak will use the statement to announce financial handouts for businesses hit by the crisis.
Measures under consideration reportedly include underwriting bank loans to ensure lending to small firms continues, as well as a "hardship fund" for affected companies that banks may refuse to lend to.
The intervention came as the Foreign Office warned against all but essential travel to Italy, which has been heavily affected by the global outbreak and on Monday night extended a quarantine to the entire country.
The country's whole population has been told to stay at home and must seek permission for essential travel.
A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office said: "The advice is that anyone who arrives from Italy subsequent to the Italian government decision should now self-isolate for 14 days."