Time is short for the UK and the EU to agree and ratify the terms of their future relationship – and coronavirus has added to the pressure. This paper has set out five options for both sides to secure more time after the 31 December deadline.
The UK government maintains that it will not seek an extension but should be aware of these options as it negotiates. The options could be used to continue negotiations and prepare for the huge changes to the trading relationship, or to give businesses more time to prepare for no deal.
The report says agreeing an extension by 30 June – the deadline given in the Withdrawal Agreement – would give the government the greatest certainty, flexibility and control. The UK could ask to opt out of some EU programmes and policies, like the Common Agricultural Policy, and lower its contribution to the EU budget.
The paper also set out four further ways that the UK and EU could create more time, even after 30 June.
Though all four options are politically sensitive or legally complex, the UK and EU could:
Amend the end date of the transition period in the Withdrawal Agreement
This could in theory be done at any point after June. But it would almost certainly require the European Court of Justice to give a legal opinion first.
Create a new transition period to begin on 1 January 2021
This would mean striking a new, complex agreement and a lengthy ratification process, alongside future relationship negotiations.
Include an implementation phase as part of the future relationship treaty
This would give businesses time to make investment decisions and adapt supply chains.
Create an implementation phase to prepare for a potential no-deal exit
Agree a temporary deal to allow traders to adapt to a no-deal scenario in the event that talks break down.