British negotiators are currently attempting to thrash out a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, though little progress has been made in recent weeks. The bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has accused the UK of backtracking on previous agreements, and has urged Boris Johnson to consider extending the EU transition period in order to avoid a no deal Brexit. But today, one of the Prime Minister’s closest allies categorically ruled out a Brexit extension.
Speaking to the House of Commons, Mr Gove said: “The transition period ends on December 31 2020.
“Under no circumstances will the Government accept an extension.
“Indeed, we have a domestic law obligation not to accept.
“Extending simply delays the moment at which we achieve what we want and what the country voted for – our economic and political independence.”
But Mr Gove said he is hopeful a deal will be made within this time, and said Mr Barnier is “inclined to move” on key areas in the trade talks.
The minister told MPs the EU’s chief negotiator has indicated progress can be made on fisheries and state aid, among other issues.
But he warned some EU states have been a “little more reluctant”.
Mr Gove made the comments in response to a question by Tory MP Robert Courts, who asked what progress had been made in the recent round of talks.
Earlier in the Commons, Tory MP Sheryll Murray had urged the Government not to “sacrifice access to our waters for any trade deal with the European Union” – an issue which has been a high point of contention.
Responding to the comment, Mr Gove said: “Our excellent chief negotiator David Frost has made it clear to Michel Barnier that we will be an independent coastal state…
“We will control who has access to our waters and on what terms and access to our waters will be subject to annual negotiations.”
It comes as Mr Johnson is warned UK businesses will struggle to cope with the financial impact of a no deal, after significant amounts of cash have been drained by the coronavirus pandemic.
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, the outgoing head of the CBI, told the BBC: “The resilience of British business is absolutely on the floor.
“Every penny of cash that had been stored up, all the stockpiles prepared have been run down.
“The firms that I speak to have not a spare moment to plan for a no trade deal Brexit at the end of the year – that is the common sense voice that needs to find its way into these negotiations.”
But Dame Carolyn is also opposed extending the transition period.
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