The UK’s chief negotiator has pledged that any request for an extension to the Brexit transition period from the EU will be rejected.
David Frost said that the British government’s position on the issue is “pretty clear”, and that negotiators are working towards an end of year deadline.
Mr Frost was answering questions from Peers on the House of Lords EU Committee on the progress of UK-EU future relationship negotiations alongside Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.
Stewart Wood asked Mr Frost: “It sounds like the June deadline for an extension request is neither here nor there, it won’t be used under any circumstances. Is that true?
“Are there any circumstances for doing the negotiations that would prompt you to actually consider an extension request?”
Mr Frost responded: “The Government’s position’s pretty clear that we are not going to ask for an extension and if the EU asks for one, we will not agree to that.
“So I think that’s just part of the framework now and we’re working to an end-year deadline.”
Directing a question to Mr Gove, Mr Wood said: “If indeed the European Council comes back and says, ‘Look we really do need a little extension for this transition period in order to get the basics sorted out’, is the Government’s position that it will say no to that request?”
Giving a short response, Mr Gove said “Yes.”
David Frost also told Peers said that the letter he sent to Michel Barnier after the third round of talks between UK and EU negotiators was intended to show that an agreement is “perfectly possible”.
Lucy Neville-Rolfe said: “Your letter suggested that it’s quite possible that a deal won’t be concluded by the end of the year, at least I think in several important respects.
“I mean, it seems to me there’ll be some economic challenges but there could also be some opportunities from that situation, clarity I think you’ve already mentioned. Could you expand on the opportunity’s side?”
Mr Frost: “Well first of all I would say it’s not our preference, we would like to get a deal and certainly my letter was not intended to signal that we were looking not to reach an agreement, far from it.
“It was intended to show that an agreement is perfectly possible provided that the EU did not bring new and unprecedented elements to the discussion and we would still like to reach an agreement.”