The team behind Boris Johnson’s Brexit negotiation unit are said to be split over whether or not to extend the transition period to allow the government to focus on the coronavirus outbreak.
Civil servants are becoming frustrated by the government’s refusal to countenance the idea of seeking an extension beyond December 31st, while the politicians want to continue to push ahead with plans to leave at the end of the year.
David Frost, the UK chief negotiator, has a team of 40 individuals who are both politically appointed advisers and civil servants.
According to City A.M, the ‘true believers’ in the unit want to meet the deadline and are content with leaving the European Union with or without a trade deal.
They are said to be veterans of the Vote Leave campaign, alongside the former communications boss of the pro-Brexit free market think tank Institute of Economic Affairs.
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The civil servants, however, hold a different view and ‘are more or less the same group… that were there under the May years’, a source told the publication.
They ‘have very different attitudes from David Frost and the people he’s brought in around him’.
David Buik, a businessman and City of London commentator, said a delay was ‘inevitable’ but that he suspects the negotiating team are refusing to concede just yet.
‘Of course they will have an extension in the end, I don’t think it’s possible to do the deal in that time, but if the UK gives an inch now the EU will take miles,’ he said.
‘As far as I’m concerned they shouldn’t be let off the bridle until the very end.’
A Downing Street spokesperson denied the split and said it remained their intention to end the transition period on December 31st.