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Chancellor confirms coronavirus won’t alter Brexit transition period whatever the impact on business

Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Andrew Marr show. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire . - Credit: PA

Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak says the impact of coronavirus won’t impact the Brexit transition period, with the new rules on trade, travel, and business still set to take effect on January 1 2021.

In his first TV interview, Sophy Ridge grilled Sunak on how the government are planning to help businesses manage the unpheaval caused by the combination of coronavirus and the seismic changes expected to trading relationships once the transition period ends.

In confirming that there will be no alteration to the transition period, Sunak said: “The prime minister has been clear, we don’t want to extend the transition period. I think people are fed up of having more delays and people not doing what they say in this regard…The negotiations have started in earnest.”

In pressing Sunak, Ridge queried whether the outright refusal to consider an extension reflects an attitude of “F business”, once professed by prime minister Boris Johnson, and shared by the new chancellor.

Sunak responded by confirming that he and Johnson do in fact share the same attitude, but that is one of belief in business: “I passionately believe, as does the government in general, about the importance of a dynamic, free-enterprise business economy in this country.”

In a wide-ranging interview that covered coronavirus, Brexit, the budget, Priti Patel and Nandos (amongst other subjects), Sunak consistently toed the party line.

Such adherence appeared to confirm what Sunak’s most ardent critics claim; the 39-year-old is but a malleable mouthpiece to expedite an agenda fronted by the non-elected Dominic Cummings.

This was compounded by the current incumbent distancing himself from predecessor Sajid Javid’s ideology, both in respect of fiscal rules and potential budgetary ideas. He was evasive when asked if he would implement either.

Sunak reaffirmed he believes that “close work between number 10 and 11 is a good thing.”

He wasn’t drawn on Ridge’s question as to whether he was a self-respecting minister, having readily accepted the working conditions deemed untenable by Javid.

Sunak’s focus throughout was on “levelling up opportunity in this country” and “unleashing the potential of our businesses”.

Such sentiments appear hollow when uttered by a government unwilling to even consider altering the Brexit transition period, despite the emergence of a probable pandemic in the form of coronavirus.