The Brexit transition period has been designed to smooth the path from Brexit to the UK and EU’s future permanent relationship. As it stands, the period is currently 21 months.
However, with the two sides failing to reach a deal yet, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has suggested extending this arrangement “for a few months”.
Today, the EU Council president Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission president, spoke to journalists at the end of a Brussels summit where there was no major breakthrough on how to avoid new visible border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit.
President Juncker said that extending the transition period “will probably happen” because it would allow room to draw up a long-term relationship between the UK and the EU.
EU Council president Donald Tusk spoke to journalists at the end of a Brussels summit where there was no major breakthrough on how to avoid new visible border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit.
Mr Tusk declared himself in a “much better mood” than after the last summit, in Salzburg.
But truly, is there any wonder these two are content with extending the transition period. The UK has already agreed to pay £39bn as part of its divorce bill. However, should the UK agree to stay beyond December 2020, further sums of money are likely to be paid to the EU by the UK.
When asked about this matter at the conference this afternoon, President Tusk refused to “speculate on such matters.” This of course, is because he aware that ultimately the UK will have to continue pay into the EU budget.
Brexiteers have responded angrily to Theresa May’s suggestion that she might be ready to accept an extension to the post-Brexit transition period as they denounced Brussels’ “blackmail”.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis, who resigned over the Government’s Chequers proposal, was joined Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg in signing an open letter warning the PM not to “bind the UK into the purgatory of perpetual membership of the EU’s customs union”.
Sir Bill Cash, the veteran Eurosceptic, tweeted: “Unthinkable that we should be blackmailed by the EU into billions and billions, plus loss of rebate in extended transition after 31st December 2020. Completely unnecessary.” He added: “Time to walk away.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg, who chairs the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tories, described the proposed extension to the transition as “a poorly thought-through idea”.
The Somerset MP pointed out that any transition period extension did not solve the problem of the backstop because it would still remain at the end of this additional period.
“It seems to me to be a rather poor attempt at kicking the can down the road,” declared Mr Rees-Mogg.
Underlining how Mrs May is under fire from both sides of her party, Nick Boles, the former minister, who is pushing for a soft Brexit move to temporary membership of the European Free Trade Association, warned: “I’m afraid she is losing the confidence now of colleagues of all shades of opinion.”
He explained: “They are close to despair at the state of this negotiation because there is a fear that both the Government and the European Union are trying to run out the clock, that they are trying to leave this so late that they can credibly say there is no alternative but a no-deal Brexit and most people agree that would be chaos.
But ultimately, these stakeholder are correct. The UK will have to contribute to the EU. The EU is unlikely to allow the UK to benefit from the single market and customs union without having to pay. It has shown throughout all these negotiations that it wants to send a message to all other members; if we can do this to the fifth largest economy in the world, imagine what we can do to you.