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IFG - Five options for securing more time for a Brexit deal – or no deal

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. A new Institute for Government 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.

Implementing Brexit: Securing more time 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.

Georgina Wright, IfG senior researcher and author of the report said:

“The biggest task facing the UK is not the negotiations, but making sure the whole country is ready to trade and co-operate under radically different circumstances on 1 January 2021. There may come a point later in the year where the UK and EU realise they do need more time. Our paper sets out how.”

James Kane, IfG associate and author of the report said:

“Time pressure may well be good for negotiations, but it definitely doesn’t help preparations. Whatever the UK and EU agree, securing more time will make the transition to it smoother.”

Notes for editors

  1. Full report can be found on our website.
  2. The Institute for Government is an independent think tank that works to make government more effective.
  3. For more information, including data to reproduce any charts, please contact / 0785 031 3791.

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