ED DAVEY: Government putting ideology over national interest by delaying Brexit extension bill

Boris Johnson at PMQs in the House of Commons. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament.

Boris Johnson at PMQs in the House of Commons. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament. - Credit: Archant

The government has delayed a Lib Dem bill to secure an extension to the Brexit transition period. Acting leader ED DAVEY says it is still putting ideology over the national interest at a time of crisis.

Today should have been the second reading of the Liberal Democrats' Bill to guarantee an extension to the Brexit transition period. With just a week to go until the meeting between Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen and Boris Johnson, and just over two weeks to go until the deadline for extending the transition period, the timings were already incredibly tight.

Now, the government have ensured this Bill and others like it will not progress until July. By which time it will be too late. The government's stubborn refusal to accept an extension to the transition period is inexcusable. I don't know why I'm surprised. They have taken this ideological, dangerous approach the whole way through the last four years. Yet at a time when businesses across the UK are already collapsing, people are losing their jobs, and the medicine stockpiles are already run dry, I really did expect better.

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Those who voted Leave and Remain alike have called for the transition period to be extended. It makes no sense to anyone for us to crash out of the EU without a deal in place, but it is particularly illogical at a time when we are still struggling with a global pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and caused the biggest economic hit for generations.

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Surely any government of any political leaning would put the national interest first at this time of crisis. The warnings from business and medical organisations have been stark. Just this week, the UK was warned by the pharmaceutical industry that some stockpiles of medical supplies have been 'used up entirely' by the virus. It is clear that these stockpiles cannot be built back up quickly: not if the UK fails to secure a deal with the EU and not as we head into what is already going to be a difficult time of year for the healthcare sector. The government seem to be in denial about the reality of the situation. As things stand, at the time the transition period ends the NHS will also be battling with the usual winter flu crisis, on top of Covid-19.

This would be concerning enough if it looked like a deal was in place. But given the results of the latest round of negotiations, the prospect of a no-deal is looming large. As Barnier said following what was the fourth round in these latest talks, there has been no significant progress on key areas of Brexit and the situation cannot go on indefinitely.

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