London mayor Sadiq Khan has taken aim at the government’s decision not to extend the Brexit transition period, branding it as ‘putting dogma ahead of the national interest’.
The mayor told listeners on the James O’Brien radio show that Number 10 was putting ideology ahead of practicality at a time of national emergency.
He said: ‘I think no one anticipated when they voted for Brexit that the key negotiations would fall at a time when all governments are rightly focussed on fighting a global pandemic.
‘The last thing we need as we try to make our way back from the devastation that’s been wreaked by coronavirus is more chaos and uncertainty.’
Khan urged the Johnson government to shelve their ‘political ideology’ in favour of a ‘pragmatic route’ out of the current health crisis. He said prolonging trade talks with the EU would allow Whitehall and administrations across Europe to refocus their efforts on recovering from the pandemic.
He said: ‘We’ve had thousands of people losing their lives – and thousands more people will lose their lives. We’ve got a situation where the Office of Budget Responsibility [OBR] is predicting a 30% drop in our GDP and the idea we could, at the same time, be planning for a no-deal Brexit, it beggars belief.’
Earlier, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, tweeted that it was not in the UK’s interest to extend talks. He also confirmed the government would not grant an extension if the EU requested one.
He wrote: ‘Extending would simply prolong negotiations, create even more uncertainty, leave us liable to pay more to the EU in future, and keep us bound by evolving EU laws at a time when we need to control our own affairs.’
Khan disagreed: ‘The chancellor has said that the costs of dealing with Covid-19 are huge, they’re humongous. We also know, from the government’s own analysis, a no-deal Brexit is really, really bad.
‘At a time when everyone is occupied with Covid-19, how is it even being considered as a sensible option?’.
The deadline for an extension is July 1, 2020.