In the Brexit latest, Theresa May has announced that she has been offered the possibility of delaying Brexit in order to resolve the increasingly fraught negotiation process. However, the idea has sparked fury from the Leave camp.
“A further idea that has emerged – and it is an idea at this stage – is to create an option to extend the implementation period for a matter of months – and it would only be for a matter of months,” she said on Thursday morning.
This period, which is often referred to as the transition period, is currently set to run until 31st December 2020. However if this extension was used it would run until some time in early 2021.
This would allow extra time for sticking points, particularly the Irish backstop, to be resolved. However May has stressed that she does not anticipate this extension being used.
“But the point is that this is not expected to be used, because we are working to ensure that we have that future relationship in place by the end of December 2020.”
Brexit latest: Fury over Brexit delay from Leave camp
The proposal has sparked bitter outrage from some members of the Leave camp, in part because this would extend the time the UK was subject to EU rules and paying dues to the union without having a vote.
The proposal prompted a statement from the co-chair of pro-Brexit campaign Leave Means Leave, Richard Trice, who argued the transition period needed to be scrapped, not extended.
“The original transition was an unnecessary trap created by our weak civil servants who cannot be trusted as they don’t want us to leave. It should be cancelled, not extended. It is increasingly clear the PM doesn’t want to leave either,” said Trice.
Leave MPs call for a reset in negotiations
Former cabinet members David Davis and Boris Johnson also expressed further objections to the Prime Minister’s current approach, in a letter to May also signed by Jacob Rees Mogg, Ian Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson and Priti Patel.
In it they urged her to “negotiate a super Canada free trade deal with the EU”. They also warned of the risk of binding the country into “the purgatory of perpetual membership of the EU’s customs union, whether by a backstop or any other route”.
They ended by calling for a reset to negotiations with the European Union.
“We urge you not to engage in a show of resistance and a choreographed argument followed by surrender and collapse into some version of the backstop and Chequers,” the MPs wrote.
“Instead we urge you to say to the EU at the Summit: ‘Let us agree that we need to reset our negotiations. Our objective is a free trade agreement that benefits the UK and EU and millions of our citizens.’ ”
Delay won’t be enough
However, on the other side of the camp Sir Michael Leigh, former director-general for enlargement at the European Commission told LBC’s Nick Ferrari that he did not think the period would provide nearly enough time to resolve the issues at hand.
“It was always going to be a question of kicking the can down the road as there’s no immediate solution to the Irish backstop issue,” he said.
“But in truth, even one year will not be sufficient to negotiate an ambitious future partnership of the type the Prime Minister is talking about. In reality, what is needed is a transitional arrangement which is renewable until the future partnership is in place.”
Irish PM stresses importance of backstop
Meanwhile, the Irish Prime Minister stressed the importance of the Irish backstop – arguing that any delay should not be seen as a substitute.
“We’re willing to listen to any proposals that might help bring us to a solution, but I really need to say, though, that any extension to the transition period couldn’t be a substitute for the backstop, we still need to have that,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told the BBC.