While Britain left the EU on 31 January it is currently in a limbo period
While Britain left the EU on 31 January it is currently in a limbo period where it still has to accept EU laws to give time for a trade deal to take place. This is set to end on 31 December when Britain will finally be free to make its own laws and sign international trade deals. The briefing from Downing Street to the Sunday Express came amid claims that Mr Johnson is set to bow to pressure and extend. Remainer business leaders and Labour have joined with EU bosses, who want to keep Britain under their control, to use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to extend the period. But senior Brexiteers have warned that such a move would be a disaster.
Before COVID-19 hit the department said it was short of 174 trade negotiators
In a sign that Labour under Sir Keir Starmer will push to keep Britain under EU control, outgoing shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said: “It would be petty to be making political capital out of the fact that it will simply not be possible to conclude the Free Trade Agreements that the government promised before the end of this year. But I do think the government has an obligation to be clear and transparent with the public.
“Before COVID-19 hit the department said it was short of 174 trade negotiators and was trying desperately to recruit them by the end of June. That is simply not going to be possible.
“So no criticism of the failure – it is understandable- but criticism that they are not owning up to it.
“People would have far more respect for this government if they felt they were being told the truth and treated like adults. Instead the Prime Minister tells us that it’s all going to be smashing and we will get a fabulous deal with the EU and the US and everybody else by December – that’s just b——s!”
But Brexiteers have said such a move will be a disaster.
Writing for the Express, former Brexit Party MEP Matthew Patten said: “The EU and Remoaners desperately want to slow things down, there’s no practical reason why Brexit negotiations cannot continue.
“The EU is still fully functioning, earlier this week confirming that it is starting enlargement talks with Albania and North Macedonia. The European Parliament also met in Brussels, attended by Commission President Von der Leyen, and with special arrangements made to allow absent MEPs watch, participate and vote from home.”
He added: “The European Union is no longer a safe place for the UK.
“The UK has never enjoyed such a strong negotiating hand as it has now. The general election gave Boris an overwhelming mandate to deliver Brexit.
“The Covid-19 economic crisis dramatically increases the EU’s dependence on the UK as a trade and finance partner; post-Brexit, whatever the deal, we will still have close political, trading and cultural relationships with our European neighbours and the rest of the world.”
Chairman of the powerful European Research Group of Tory Brexiteer MPs Mark Francois said: “The last thing this country needs when facing Covid 19 is to reopen the Brexit argument all over again! Modern technology, such as Skype, facilitates negotiating at distance so there is absolutely no need to delay the transition period. On that issue we should just Keep Calm and Carry On.”