With all political and policy hands on deck to address the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak, Brexit’s timetable is sliding itself back on the agenda.
Voices in the UK, such as Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, started calling for an extension of the transition period towards the beginning of last week and were met with agreement of EU voices by the end of the week.
On 27 March, David McAllister MEP, leader of the European Parliament’s EU-UK Coordination Group (UKCG) published an editorial in Euractiv suggesting that the UK would be wise to consider an extension to the transition period.
McAllister writes that, ‘it is evident that in the limited time and especially without an extension of the transition period beyond 2020, [the negotiating teams] cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership. We will have to prioritise. The UK itself chose this tight schedule and is still insisting to stick to it despite the current situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic’. Choice words such as ‘still insisting’ and ‘despite’ hint towards his disapproval of the UK response. After outlining an extensive list of the major points of divergence, he concludes by saying ‘London should again thoroughly assess a possible extension transition period’. While this may not be the official Parliamentary position, he certainly carries authority when making such unsubtle hints.
Citing McAllister and Christophe Hansen MEP, negotiator of the post-Brexit agreement on the INTA Committee, the EPP Group has written today that it wants to discuss an extension of the transition period beyond its current deadline. Hansen is in full agreement with McAllister, writing that he cannot see how the UK Government would ‘choose to expose itself to the double whammy of the Coronavirus and exit from the EU Single Market’ and that an extension of the transition period ‘is the only responsible thing to do’. As the largest party in the European Parliament and with UK negotiations making the Committee agendas despite COVID-19, such appeals can certainly pave the way for other European parties and bodies to share their opinions on the matter.
While unsolicited advice may not be heeded, it is important for the UK to understand the EU’s mood and views on ongoing negotiations.