David Frost, the Prime Minister’s chief Brexit negotiator, has held discussions with the First Secretary of State Dominic Raab and other senior ministers in the last few days. As I say in tomorrow’s Spectator, the conclusion of these discussions has been that the UK will not request an extension to the transition period. Interestingly, I understand that no one in these discussions backed asking for an extension.
The thinking is that a delay would not solve the fundamental policy problems and that a deal is either possible or not. Another factor, I understand, is that the government worries about the cost of any extension. There is concern that extending could drag the UK into the arguments about who pays for the various EU schemes designed to protect the European economy and preserve the Eurozone. It is worth remembering that it isn’t only the UK who can request an extension to the transition period. There is nothing to stop the EU proposing one – though, the EU has acted as if requesting an extension is a decision for London alone.
If the EU did ask for more time, it would put the government in a difficult position. Rejecting the request would sit ill with the idea that the UK wants to be a good neighbour to the EU. Frost and Michel Barnier will video conference today. But it now seems that the only way the transition period will be extended is if the EU requests it.