STATE OF PLAY
A Downing Street spokesperson has insisted that the UK will not ask for an extension to the transition period beyond December 31 2020 and would reject any such request from the EU. He added that “extending the transition would simply prolong the negotiations, prolong business uncertainty, and the delay the moment of control of [the UK] borders. It would also keep us bound by EU legislation at a point when we need legislative and economic flexibility to manage the UK response to the coronavirus pandemic”.
The spokesperson’s words were echoed by the UK’s chief negotiator, David Frost, who tweeted “Transition ends on 31 December this year. We will not ask to extend it. If the EU asks we will say no. Extending would simply prolong negotiations, create even more uncertainty, leave us liable to pay more to the EU in future, and keep us bound by evolving EU laws at a time when we need to control our own affairs. In short, it is not in the UK’s interest to extend.”
These comments came as Frost held talks by video-conference with his counterpart, Michel Barnier, this week. The two sides agreed to resume post-Brexit talks next week, where they will discuss entrenched divisions on issues such trade and fishing rights, again over video link. Frost and Barnier also released a timetable for the next three rounds of negotiations in an attempt to get the coronavirusdisrupted talks back on track. A second round of negotiations will take place from Monday 20 April to Friday 24 April 2020, followed by a third round and a fourth round in the weeks commencing 1 May and 1 June, respectively. Progress will then be assessed ahead of a summit in June when both sides will deem whether sufficient satisfactory progress has been made to continue.
In a joint statement, they said that recent technical work had been “useful to identify all major areas of divergence and convergence”, but they agreed there was a need to organise further talks “in order to make real, tangible progress in the negotiations by June”.
OTHER KEY DEVELOPMENTS
PM Boris Johnson was discharged from hospital on 12 April. A Government spokesperson said Johnson would not “immediately” return to work and would recover at his official country retreat.
Asked if she would advise an extension to the BREXIT transition period, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said: “My advice would be to seek ways in which this element of uncertainty is reduced in the interests of everybody, the UK, the EU, and the whole world”, adding “I really hope that all policymakers everywhere would be thinking about [reducing uncertainty]. It is tough as it is, let’s not make it any tougher”.
The UK Parliament is set to reconvene online on 21 April, under plans put forward by the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg. Up to 120 MPs will be able to be on video conference at a time, with a further 50 allowed to sit in the House of Commons under social distancing rules. If approved by MPs upon their return from the Easter Recess on 21 April, the virtual Parliament will begin on 22 April. Screens will be placed around the House of Commons to allow the speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and those MPs present in the chamber to be able to see their colleagues on Zoom.
Latest monthly data shows that the Home Office received 3.4m applications from people seeking to stay in the UK after Brexit under the EU settled status scheme. The total number of applications concluded was 3,147,000. Of those 58% were granted settled status and 41% granted pre-settled status.