The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier wrote to leaders of opposition political parties on Wednesday to say the bloc is open to the idea of an extension by up to 24 months. Both Boris Johnson and the UK’s head Brexit negotiator David Frost immediately rejected this, and said a post-Brexit trade deal would have to be signed this year. But a summary of a Bill posted on the UK Parliament website states one has been put forward in an attempt to push through an extension.
This says: “A Bill to require Her Majesty’s Government to seek a two-year extension to the implementation period under Article 132 of the Withdrawal Agreement; to repeal the -prohibition on agreeing to such an extension under section 33 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2000, and for connected purposes.”
The next stage for the Bill – the second reading – is scheduled to take place on June 12.
The Brexit Party’s Martin Daubney, who served as a member of the European Parliament between 2019 and 2020, tweeted he had been contacted by a Tory MP who has been left “furious” acting Liberal Democrat co-leader Sir Ed Davey is trying to force through the Bill.
Mr Daubney tweeted: “Just been contacted by a Tory MP, furious that Lib Dem co-leader Ed Davey is trying to squeeze through a Bill that will demand a two-year Brexit extension.
“The Remain elite still won’t listen to the British public! Expect huge fireworks on June 12th.”
Brexit news: Remainers are trying to force through a Bill demanding an extension
Brexit news: Boris Johnson is insisting the transition period will not be extended
The Private Members Bill laid by Mr Davey was presented to Parliament last Wednesday – but fury around its demand to extend the transition period sparked renewed fury today.
One person wrote on Twitter: “It’s a Private Members’ Bill. Won’t go anywhere.
“Plays to Davey’s gallery and reminds everyone that the Lib Dems are an anti-democratic irrelevance.”
A second person tweeted: “Everything for the last four years either has it’s roots in 23rd June 2016 or is used to influence the events since 23rd June 2016.
“The day we leave and leave proper can’t come soon enough.”
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Another wrote: “It’s shocking that in a time of national crisis we can see what the opposition have been spending the time doing.
“Meanwhile they have done zero to work with the Government.”
The UK has until the start of July to request an extension to the Brexit transition period which currently comes to an end on December 31 2020.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly ruled out extending the transition period – as Brexit trade talks continue via video next week.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator wrote to the Westminster leaders of the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Green Party and Alliance Party, and said the option of an extension to the transition period is available if the UK wants it.
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Brexit news: Michel Barnier has proposed a two-year extension to the transition period
These party leaders had previously written to Mr Barnier on May 15 calling for a two-year extension to be agreed between the UK and EU.
Mr Barnier wrote: “The European Union remains determined to build a new and ambitious partnership with the United Kingdom in the short time that is available, given your Government’s repeated statements that it will not agree to an extension of the transition period.
“I take note on your views of a possible extension to the transition period.
“Such an extension of up to one or two years can be agreed jointly by the two parties.
“The European Union has always said that we remain open on this matter.”
“Regardless of the extension issue, please rest assured that the EU side will continue to do its utmost to reach an ambitious and balanced partnership agreement with the United Kingdom.”
Brexit news: Ian Blackford urged Boris Johnson to accept the offer from the EU
Brexit news: Trade talks between the UK and EU started in March
The SNP’s Westminster leader Mr Blackford welcomed the letter from Mr Barnier and called the Prime Minister to accept the offer of a two-year extension.
He said: “Boris Johnson must finally put his responsibilities to jobs, living standards and the economy first – and urgently agree the two-year extension on offer to the transition period.
“It would be madness to pile a Brexit crisis on top of the coronavirus crisis we already face – with unemployment soaring, businesses shedding jobs, and many struggling to survive.
“Time is running out. There is just a month left to agree an extension to prevent the UK crashing out with a devastating bad deal or a catastrophic No-Deal.
“If the Prime Minister fails to agree an extension he will be responsible for every job lost, every income slashed, and every business that goes under as a result of his bad Brexit deal.
“The SNP will continue to press for a long extension to protect Scotland’s economy – but the only way to guarantee Scotland’s interests and protect our place at the heart of Europe is to become an independent country.”
Brexit news; There is a June 30 deadline for extending the transition period
Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Layla Moran urged Mr Johnson to “put his pride aside” and agree to an extension of the transition period.
She said: “The transition period was designed to give us time to secure a trade deal and make preparations for it to come into effect.
“That time has already, and understandably, been decimated by the Coronavirus response. This makes a dangerous No-Deal Brexit more likely at the end of the year, unless we extend the transition period.
“I am urging the Prime Minister to put his pride aside, tackle the crisis in front of him and take the extension he’s being offered.”
But the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost insisted to MPs the UK will not be extending the Brexit transition period beyond the end of this year.
Speaking before a Commons committee on the future relationship with the EU following recent negotiations, he said: “That is the firm policy of the Government that we will not extend transition period and if asked we would not agree to it,” he said.
“And, I take that as a given.
“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 budget.
“And, of course, those things are accomplished by ending the transition period at the end of the year.”