Michael Gove, the British cabinet office minister, has confirmed the UK Government will not extend the Brexit transition period, after the first ministers of Scotland and Wales called for it to do so.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford said exiting the transition period at the end of this year, when the UK economy will just be beginning its recovery from coronavirus, would be “extraordinarily reckless”.
But in a tweet on Friday, Mr Gove said he has officially given notice to EU negotiators that the UK Government will not request an extension beyond the December 31 deadline.
Later, Scottish and Welsh ministers decided not to take part in a Brexit conference call with the UK Government in protest at Mr Gove’s actions.
His statement was made during a meeting of the EU Joint Committee.
Mr Gove tweeted: “I formally confirmed the UK will not extend the transition period & the moment for extension has now passed. On 1 January 2021 we will take back control and regain our political & economic independence.”
UK sources were keen to depict the meeting as the last formal opportunity to request an extension, as it was the final scheduled meeting of the joint committee before the July 1 deadline to make such a request.
But both sides can agree to hold another meeting, where under the Withdrawal Agreement a delay could be asked for.
The Scottish Government has repeatedly called for the transition period to be extended.
Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford warned in their letter that “fundamental issues” still remained between the UK and EU negotiators after the most recent round of talks on a deal.
They wrote: “No-one could reproach the UK Government for changing its position in the light of the wholly unforeseeable Covid-19 crisis, particularly as the EU has made it clear it is open to an extension request.
Britain and the EU concluded their fourth round of talks last week, during which they made no progress on the most difficult areas where differences of principle are most acute, notably on fisheries, governance arrangements and the so-called level playing field.
The focus will now switch to a crucial meeting next Monday between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
Britain ended its EU membership on Jan. 31 but is still following EU rules during the transition period until Dec. 31 to enable a permanent future trade deal to be reached. During this period, Britain would have to pay into EU funds but have no say in laws imposed by Brussels. Enditem