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A UK Government spokesman insisted the strict deadline set by the Prime Minister is “enshrined in UK Law”. He admitted on Tuesday they would not “officially be convening negotiating function tomorrow” but that both sides remain “fully committed” to the talks process. The spokesman said: “In light of the most recent guidance on coronavirus, we won’t formally be convening negotiating work strands tomorrow in the way we did in the preceding round.”
“We hope to discuss a draft FTA together with the draft legal texts of a number of the standalone arrangements in the near future still, as intended.
“Both sides stay fully committed to the discussions and we stay in contact with the European Commission to think about alternative tactics to continue talks, including looking at the prospect of video conferencing or conference calls, and exploring flexibility in the arrangement for the coming weeks.
“The transition period ends on December 31, 2020. This is enshrined in UK law.” The commitment from the government came after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was put under pressure by opposition MPs in the House of Commons to extend the transition period.
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock told him “Rather than trying to fight this war on two fronts, if you like, and extending authorities bandwidth to breaking point, surely the time is now coming to ask for an extension to the transition period and it is far better to do that than to put ideology ahead of the health and safety of the British people.”
But before discussions were cancelled, former Brexit Secretary Mr Raab insisted: “We are convinced we can get this done and, honestly, I do not think delaying Brexit discussions would give anyone the certainty – on both sides of the Channel – they require.”
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