Sadiq Khan has called for an extension to the 31 December deadline for Brexit trade talks between the UK and EU as the two sides meet for the latest negotiating round today.
The mayor of London wrote today to chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, the minister responsible for the talks, to say an “extension to the transition period is now urgently needed to give businesses and public services some certainty” during the coronavirus crisis.
Negotiators from the UK and EU will meet this week for the fourth round of negotiations, before the two sides take a break to assess progress.
High level meetings between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are also expected next month.
Chief UK negotiator David Frost has said if there is no progress on several key areas – such as fishing and business competition policy – that he will walk away from negotiations and Britain will prepare to leave the transition period without a trade deal.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his team have said they are willing to extend the deadline for a deal beyond 31 December, however Downing Street has continually stated that any change was unthinkable.
Khan said to Gove that the new tariffs and trade barriers which would result from a no-deal exit from the transition period would be “needless and hazardous”.
“The last thing the country needs as it tries to find a way back from the devastation wreaked by coronavirus is more chaos and uncertainty,” he wrote.
“I urge the government to put political ideology aside and pursue the pragmatic route of seeking an extension to the negotiations so that we and our European partners can focus on recovery from Covid-19.”
Responding to Khan’s letter, a government spokesperson said: “An extension to the transition period would bind us into future EU legislation, without us having any say in designing it, but still having to foot the bill as we would still have to make payments into the EU budget.
“The EU themselves have said that their next budget will be unusual, and we would have no say in what it would go towards.
“We need to be able to design our own rules, in our best interests, to manage our response to coronavirus – without the constraints of following EU rules.”
There has been a chorus of calls for the UK to seek an extension to the transition period in light of the Covid-19 crisis.
This has included International Monetary Fund boss Kristalina Georgieva, who said the short timeframe for negotiations created unnecessary uncertainty for the global economy.
Speaking to Westminster’s Brexit committee last week, Frost reiterated that the government’s position was that there would be no change to the deadline.
“It’s the firm policy of the government that we will not extend the transition period and, if asked, we would not agree to it,” he said.
“I take that as a given. I can see why that position has been taken.
“I think we have always put a lot of emphasis on economic and political freedom at the end of this year and on avoiding ongoing significant payments into the EU budgets.”