Britain formally rejects extension to post-Brexit transition period

Scottish and Welsh governments withdraw from talks with London on Brexit strategy

British cabinet office minister Michael Gove has ruled out Britain applying for an extension to the post-Brexit transition period. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

British cabinet office minister Michael Gove has ruled out Britain applying for an extension to the post-Brexit transition period. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire


Britain has formally rejected an extension to the post-Brexit transition period and the EU has acknowledged the decision as definitive, so the standstill arrangement will end on December 31st.

British cabinet office minister Michael Gove met European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic on Friday as the joint committee to implement the withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK convened for the last time before the June 30th deadline for Britain to request an extension to the transition period.

Mr Sefcovic said that although the EU remained open to extending the transition period, Mr Gove “was very clear, unequivocal, on the fact that the UK is not going to seek an extension”.

“We take this decision as a definitive one,” Mr Sefcovic said.

Britain said on Friday that it would phase in a light-touch customs regime for goods entering the UK from the EU, with full border controls not coming into force until July 2021. The freight transport industry welcomed the staggered introduction of controls, which the British government said was a response to the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have informed the EU today that we will not extend the transition period. The moment for extension has now passed,” Mr Gove said. 

“At the end of this year we will control our own laws and borders, which is why we are able to take the sovereign decision to introduce arrangements in a way that gives businesses impacted by coronavirus time to adjust. Today’s announcement is an important step towards getting the country ready for the end of the transition period.”

Controlled imports such as tobacco and alcohol will be subject to full customs checks and tariffs from January, but importers of other goods will have six months to prepare customs declarations and pay tariffs.

Devolved governments row

The Scottish and Welsh governments, which have called for an extension of the transition period, withdrew from planned talks with the British government about Brexit strategy on Friday evening.

“We cannot accept a way of working in which the views of the devolved governments are simply dismissed before we have had a chance to discuss them. In reality, the meetings we have had have simply been an opportunity for the UK government to inform us of their views, not to listen or respond to ours,” they said.

British prime minister Boris Johnson will hold talks by video on Monday with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, European Council president Charles Michel and European Parliament president David Sassoli. The two sides have scheduled six meetings over the summer, with negotiating rounds on the future EU-UK trading relationship in August, September and October, alternating between London and Brussels if health restrictions allow.

“With some six months to go before the end of the transition period we still have lots of work to do. This is true for all work streams, but in particular with regard to the Protocol on Northern Ireland and Ireland. The window of opportunity to put in place the operational measures needed to ensure that the protocol can function as intended on January 1st, 2021, is rapidly closing,” Mr Sefcovic said.