Coronavirus is enough to deal with - We must extend the post-Brexit transition to get our EU-UK relationship right

Posted on April 08, 2020
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TJM is calling on the Government to request an extension to the post-Brexit transition period, to allow full focus on tackling the coronavirus epidemic.

It would be inappropriate to conclude trade talks before the epidemic has passed. An extension to the transition period is needed for the following reasons:

  1. To minimise disruption to the UK economy. Leaving the EU's single market will mean significant change to the UK’s jobs and industries, particularly in manufacturing, the price and the availability of goods, our rules and regulations and many other areas. The coronavirus epidemic has brought unprecedented uncertainty with the potential for significant job losses and the collapse of many businesses. It is vital to avoid further instability and change. The focus for now should be on stabilising and rebuilding our society. Our future trading relationship with the EU will need to be responsive to the changed economic landscape that coronavirus will inevitably bring.
  2. To ensure we get a deal that works for all UK regions and supports our international commitments. Significant expertise will be pulled away from key departments like the Department for International Trade to focus on the epidemic. If we try to rush through decisions now, there is a risk that choices and details of the future EU-UK relationship will be poorly thought out, leading to unintended negative consequences. This deal should be made when it can be given the expert attention it deserves.
  3. To ensure we have proper public engagement and parliamentary scrutiny of the new EU-UK relationship. Our future relationship with the EU must be developed in a way that is transparent and inclusive. We should pause decisions on trade agreements until the UK public and our elected representatives are able to engage with the negotiation process.
  4. To ensure sufficient capacity to build the infrastructure we will need post-Brexit. There is a huge amount of work still to be done to keep things running smoothly after transition. To ensure food and medicines can keep flowing into the country, we need to ensure our regulations are compatible with those of the EU and that we have the necessary border infrastructure. New governmental bodies will need to be created to take over the functions of the EU. At the moment, Government resources are rightly being diverted to deal with the crisis, which means there is not sufficient time to do the essentials to be ready for Brexit.
  5. The world will look different after this epidemic: we need a trade deal that works in that new world. So much has already changed in the few months since this epidemic began. Sectors that used to be central to our economy are falling away. Localised production of medical equipment and other essentials has become more important. We want a trade deal that makes sense in the post-coronavirus world. We should wait until the dust has settled before we finalise anything, to leave space to adapt to our new reality.