The UK is showing “no real sign” of approaching Brexit trade talks with a plan to succeed during the coronavirus pandemic, the EU’s trade commissioner has said. Phil Hogan has suggested the UK government is planning to blame Covid-19 for “the fallout from Brexit” because it does not want negotiations to continue into 2021.
He also warned that the government's current approach needed to change to avoid an “almighty blow to the UK economy later this year”, which could “spill over” to other countries, such as Ireland.
“Despite the urgency and enormity of the negotiating challenge, I am afraid we are only making very slow progress in the Brexit negotiations,” Mr Hogan told the press. “There is no real sign that our British friends are approaching the negotiations with a plan to succeed.’
Brussels and the UK government are currently negotiating a trade agreement via video-conferencing, due to severe restrictions on movement introduced on both sides of the Channel to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Ministers have insisted the transition period will not be extended beyond 2020, despite unprecedented disruption to daily life due to the pandemic and officials on both sides admitting there has been little progress in the first two rounds of formal talks.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has called for an extension to the Brexit transition period until the end of 2022 due to the coronavirus crisis and urged Labour and other opposition parties to support them. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, claimed earlier this week that there was “absolutely no need” to extend the transition period.
Mr Hogan insisted that the EU was “serious” about a deal and said the UK needed to outline further details about what it wanted to achieve.