Extending the post-Brexit transition period could hinder the UK’s efforts to deal with coronavirus, pro-Brexit minister Michael Gove has claimed.
The UK and Brussels are currently negotiating a fresh trade agreement via video-telephone conferencing, due to the coronavirus.
Despite officials in both London and the Belgian capital admitting that the two rounds of formal talks that have taken place so far have seen little progress, Downing Street has consistently refused to extend the deadline beyond December.
Explaining the government’s rationale for that decision, the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster told peers that increasing the time available for the talks could hurt the UK’s post-coronavirus recovery.
Cabinet Office minister Gove said that, for each additional year the UK had to follow EU rules, the cost ‘would be something between £20 billion gross and £10 billion net’.
And he said there was no guarantee that the EU would not hinder government attempts to revive the country’s economy after the current lockdown measures are lifted.
‘In these specific crisis arrangements because of Covid-19, we have seen the EU has shown a degree of flexibility on things like free movement and on state aid,’ Gove told the Lords’ European Union committee.
‘But we cannot know, particularly when it comes to state aid, that it would necessarily be the case that we would have the freedom of manoeuvre that we might require.
‘And certainly on other areas, perhaps in some of the data-sharing that might be required across government departments in order to deal effectively with Covid-19, we can’t be certain the EU wouldn’t introduce or uphold rules that would be inconsistent with the freedom of manoeuvre that we might need.’
During his 90-minute appearance in front of the committee, Gove also confirmed the UK would exchange texts with Brussels on the government’s negotiation position on fishing rights in the ‘next few weeks’.