The UK government today formally confirmed that it will not seek an extension to the Brexit transition period, which ends on 31 December 2020.
Today's meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee was the last before the deadline of 30 June for the two sides to agree an extension under Article 132 of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Michael Gove said that he "formally confirmed the UK will not extend the transition period & the moment for extension has now passed". European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič responded that the EU takes this as a "definite conclusion of this discussion".
Any extension would have been to the end of either of 2021 or 2022. Now, it appears that the UK will exit the status quo transition period – during which time it has remained within the EU Single Market and Customs Union – in less than six months' time.
Talks to accelerate
At the same time, the EU and UK have agreed to speed up their talks on their post-transition relationship.
To now, the pace of the talks has been leisurely, with the negotiating teams having met only four times since the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 (there was some coronavirus-induced disruption to the meeting schedule).
Various teams will meet in different formats from 29 June to 3 July, and in the weeks of 6 July, 13 July, 20 to 24 July, 27 July, and 17 to 21 August. Here is the announcement of these new rounds.
That's a real quickening of negotiating activity. The EU's aim is to have these future relationship negotiations settled by the European Council meeting on 15 and 16 October.
Businesses across all sectors are of course very keen for some degree of certainty about the post-2020 trading relationship.
Hints of an implementation period?
I wrote last week that one way the EU and UK may address the short time that businesses now have to prepare for the post-transition relationship would be to agree a form of 'detailed framework' trade agreement – but incorporate into that an implementation period (possibly limited to specific economic sectors) after the end of 2020.
The Financial Times reports (£) today that the UK has abandoned its plans for full border checks after 2020. Instead, there would be a temporary 'light touch' regime, similar to that announced for a possible no deal exit in 2019 (which never happened), ahead of the UK then moving later to full checks later in 2021.
The FT report would make sense within the context of a post-2020 implementation period in some areas of UK-EU trade.
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