Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

The Brexit Transition Period Won't be Extended and Rightly So


On Friday the European Commission admitted that the Brexit transition period will not be extended, and that Britain must now prepare to police the border in the Irish Sea. In a meeting of the joint committee on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, Michael Gove told Maros Sefcovic, a vice-president for the commission, that the UK would not be seeking an extension to the transition period. Mr Sefcovic spoke to reporters in Brussels after the meeting, telling them that Mr Gove "couldn't be clearer." He explained this was the promise that was given to the British citizens in the electoral campaign.

"[He] was very clear, unequivocal on the fact that the UK is not going to seek the extension and because this was the last joint committee before the deadline expires, we take this decision as a definitive one. Therefore, we are pleading for acceleration of work on all fronts." In a statement, Mr Gove said "We have informed the EU [on Friday] that we will not extend the transition period. The moment for extension has now passed." The announcement comes amid calls from the Northern Ireland Assembly and the First Ministers of both Scotland and Wales who were urging the government to seek an extension to the transition period.

Officially, the UK government have until July 1st to submit a request to the commission for an extension however it is clear from the communications on Friday that this will not be happening. Mr Johnson's government has always said that an extension to the transition period would not be sought after and I am glad that they have stuck to their word. On numerous occasions the EU has stated that they would be open to negotiations concerning an extension – I am glad they have finally realised that the UK government was serious about their stance on this matter.

As no deal has been reached, the UK and the EU will be trading on WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms and subsequent tariffs placed on goods. Further details have been demanded from the UK government regarding their plans to enforce the new customs arrangements in Northern Ireland. A UK command paper provided to the commission did not contain enough details.

The UK government has stated that plans to introduce full border controls on EU imports will not be ready by the end of the year and will thus implement a staged light touch regime. This means that controls will be increased gradually over time. Something that the UK government says should aid businesses hit by Coronavirus and will allow them more time to prepare. Mr Sefcovic however has stated that come January 1st, 2021, "the UK will have to meet all the requirements of the protocol rigorously and effectively". Essentially meaning that by January 1st, all of the checks and controls must be in place – something we know will not happen. The EU submitted a request to Britain asking permission to establish a permanent office in Northern Ireland to scrutinise the system – something which was swiftly rejected by Downing Street.

This has been a long time coming but I am thrilled that the EU have finally taken the UK government seriously. The minority governments, previous extensions, remain groups popping up, Anna Soubry's Change UK posse and all the rest; resulted in the UK being the joke of the Union. When Mr Johnson won his election with a landslide majority, the tables were turned. As Mrs Thatcher said, "Europe as a whole is fundamentally unreformable". And in my view, if you want change in the Union, you've got to leave it on December 31st, and in the words of Ann Widdecombe, "we're off!" 

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Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
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