New bill could pave the way for an extension to Brexit transition period

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

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

The Liberal Democrats are to take the first steps to try to force the government's hand to seek a Brexit transition period extension.

The opposition party will seek to put forward a bill in the House of Commons next month requiring the government to seek a two-year extension of the Brexit implementation period from Brussels.

The UK government had claimed that a Brexit deal could be achieved during the coronavirus pandemic, ruling out any extension to talks, but there has been little breakthrough in the latest round of discussions.

'The fundamentals remain as they have been,' an official close to Downing Street has claimed.

New reports suggest that David Frost, the UK's Brexit negotiator, has given just two weeks for progress to be made in talks - or preparations will be made for a no-deal Brexit.

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Recent polling suggests three quarters of the British public expect a trade deal with the EU at the end of talks, with a majority expecting an extension due to Covid-19.

While Johnson's 80-strong majority in the House of Commons will make it difficult to pass such a bill, it would increase pressure on the government as MPs would have their first opportunity to debate such an extension.

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Lib Dem acting leader Ed Davey said it was time for the prime minister and ministers 'to do the right thing' during the Covid-19 outbreak.

He said: 'It is clear the government have not made nearly enough progress on Brexit trade talks.

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'To choose a no-deal Brexit crash out when an option to extend the transition is possible would be an act of national self-harm when our NHS, economy and food supply chains are already stretched and struggling.

'It is time the prime minister did the right thing. That is why Liberal Democrats are today presenting legislation that would enable the government to seek an extension to the transition period.'

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