Former UK Brexit Secretary David Davis says there will be no time to ratify a Brexit trade deal before the end of the transition period which is due to finish this month.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast he said there will have to be a pause – ‘a freeze’ – while that happens, even though an “extension” was outlawed by Boris Johnson.
Davis said the probability of a deal was “still high” but there would be compromise on both sides and the “big decisions won’t be this afternoon between the prime minister and president of the commission but in wires running hot between Berlin and Paris and other capitals”.
“My suspicion is when it gets to the end of the month there is no time to ratify… so they will have to do some sort of freeze in place of current customs arrangements to take us through the few months until everybody from the European Parliament to the Walloon parliament actually give their opinion”, he said.
The government’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), which took the UK out of the EU on 31 January, prohibits any extension to the transition period beyond the end of 2020, even if a free trade deal isn’t ready in time.
It was announced today that Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen are to hold emergency talks as negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal go down to the wire.
With time for an agreement rapidly running out, the two sides’ chief negotiators announced on Friday they were putting the talks on “pause” to allow political leaders to take stock.
In a joint statement following the latest round of negotiations in London, the UK’s Lord Frost and the EU’s Michel Barnier said the conditions for an agreement had still not been met.
After months of circling round the same issues, they said “significant divergences” remained over fisheries, the “level playing field” rules on fair competition and the enforcement mechanism for any deal.