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The pro-Remain group have sparked a furious backlash by trying to sneak a Bill through the UK Parliament that demands a two-year extension to the post-Brexit transition period beyond December 31, 2020. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier wrote to leaders of the UK’s opposition political parties, including the Liberal Democrats and SNP, on Wednesday to say Brussels is open to the idea of a delay by up to 24 months. Both Boris Johnson and the UK’s lead negotiator David Frost immediately slapped this down, insisting an agreement between the two sides would have to be signed this year.
But a summary of a Bill posted on the UK Parliament website showed a motion has been put forward in an attempt to push through an extension.
This says: “A Bill to require Her Majesty’s Government to seek a two-year extension to the implementation period under Article 132 of the Withdrawal Agreement; to repeal the -prohibition on agreeing to such an extension under section 33 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2000, and for connected purposes.”
The next stage for the Bill – the second reading – is scheduled to take place on June 12.
The Private Members Bill laid by Liberal Democrat acting co-leader Sir Ed Davey was presented to Parliament last Wednesday – but fury around its demand to extend the transition period sparked renewed fury.
The Brexit Party’s Martin Daubney, who served as a member of the European Parliament between 2019 and 2020, tweeted: “Just been contacted by a Tory MP, furious that Lib Dem co-leader Ed Davey is trying to squeeze through a Bill that will demand a two-year Brexit extension.
“The Remain elite still won’t listen to the British public! Expect huge fireworks on June 12th.”
The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), which currently has two MPs in Westminster, is also trying to push through a proposal in the Northern Irish Parliament of Stormont to extend the transition period.
The motion will be debated on Tuesday, with the SDLP’s Brexit spokesperson Matthew O’Toole claiming this will mark the “first time since the restoration of devolution that the Northern Ireland Assembly has had a substantive debate on Brexit”.
But the DUP’s Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson dismissed the outcome of the proposal as “irrelevant” as any decision over whether to pursue any extension to the transition period will be made in Westminster.
He also lashed out at the motion as being “despicable” for “trying to use the health crisis as a means to pursue their political agenda on Europe”.
Mr Wilson told Northern Ireland daily newspaper The News Letter: “First of all, I’m not surprised at all by the SDLP for the simple reason that the SDLP don’t want us to leave the European Union and will use every excuse to try and find a way of stopping us.
“What I find particularly despicable is that they are trying to use the health crisis that we are facing as a means to pursue their political agenda on Europe.
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“Secondly, not only is it a political move but it is also an illogical move. What do you gain by delaying? The more urgency you put into this the more likely it is that you will get the EU to move in the negotiations.”
The East Antrim MP continued: “Clearly there are massive issues that the EU now has to face with the fallout from the virus, the impact that it’s having on economies across Europe, the fact that they now find themselves in a situation where some of the different countries are concerned by the way coronavirus has been handled by the EU.
“The last thing they need is for prolonged Brexit negotiations to distract their attention from the problems they have to deal with. That is a massive opportunity for the government to secure a deal that ensures trade will continue tariff free.”
“The Assembly debate is irrelevant. This is a decision to be made in London. The Prime Minister has made it quite clear that the 31st of December is still the deadline.”
Earlier this week, Mr Frost repeated to MPs the transition period will not be extended beyond December 31, 2020.
Speaking before a Commons committee on the future relationship with the EU following recent negotiations, he said: “That is the firm policy of the Government that we will not extend transition period and if asked we would not agree to it,” he said.
“And, I take that as a given.
“I think we have always put a lot of emphasis on economic and political freedom at the end of this year and on avoiding ongoing significant payments into the EU budget.
“And, of course, those things are accomplished by ending the transition period at the end of the year.”
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