Cabinet minister Michael Gove has told MPs it is ‘plain prudence’ not to extend the Brexit transition period beyond the current timetable.
The Cabinet Office minister said the government did not want the UK to continue with its ‘European Union-lite membership’ beyond December 2020 in a bid to save taxpayers’ cash and to prevent it being ‘constrained’ when fighting Covid-19.
Gove also said a ‘full and constructive’ round of talks with the EU took place last month, with the next scheduled negotiations in the week beginning May 11.
Speaking in the Commons, Labour’s Wes Streeting cautioned: ‘Everyone will understand that we’ve left the European Union and everyone would understand that the impact of Covid-19 might have an impact on the timetable for negotiating our future relationship.
‘So why won’t the minister give businesses the reassurance they need – that if the government needs more time, it’ll take more time?
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‘Is it dogma, is it vanity, or is it paranoia?’
Gove replied: ‘That’s a helpful list of conditions which (Mr Streeting) lists but it’s none of those.
‘It’s plain prudence.
‘Were we to perpetuate our membership of the European Union-lite through the transition period, we would end up spending more taxpayers’ money – which can be spent on the NHS – we would have to accept new EU rules which might constrain our ability to fight Covid-19 and deal with other crises, and we would be unfortunately and unfairly trespassing on the EU’s need to concentrate on other vital priorities.’