Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to secure an extension of the transition period as a priority.
"It is clear that there has not been enough progress made on the trade talks with the EU and, with the extension deadline on 30 June, time is running out," said Sue Wixley the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Putney, Southfields and Roehampton.
“We know the UK left the EU at the end of January, so this isn’t about rehashing old arguments. Instead, it’s about a facing the stark reality of fighting a pandemic. To crash us out at a time when our NHS, economy and food supply chains are already stretched would be unthinkable," said Wixley.
Earlier this week the Northern Ireland Assembly passed a motion calling on the UK government to request an extension to the Brexit transition period in the wake of the “extreme challenges” posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the European Union said it was “open” to a two-year Brexit delay, according to chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
On 20 May, the Liberal Democrat introduced a Bill to require the Government to seek a two-year extension in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. The European Movement has also been calling for the transition period to be extended so that the Government can focus on Covid-19.
Wixley outlines two reasons for backing an extension. "First, the Government should be singularly focused on dealing with Covid-19 -- to the exclusion of everything else -- including pursuing its Brexit agenda.
"Secondly, the impact of the pandemic on the economy means that Brexit of any sort, let alone a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, would turn an already deeply troubled situation into a catastrophe."
Polling by Best for Britain has shown that two-thirds of the public including both Leavers and Remainers want the Government to be focused 100% on fighting the virus for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, the Office of Budget Responsibility has issued a sober warning that Britain’s economy could shrink by 35% this spring and unemployment could soar by more than 2 million.
“It’s clear that an extension is possible and it's high time for the Conservative Government to put the national interest first and accept the need to extend the transition period. Otherwise, the Government risks pitching the country into a chaotic no deal Brexit at a time when the economy is already in uncharted territory and millions are worried about their jobs and futures”, said Wixley.
Wixley wrote to Putney MP Fleur Anderson on 12 May urging her to push for an extension to the Brexit talks. She has not yet received a reply to her letter but states that she would welcome working together to campaign for an extension.