Michael Gove told Brussels that the UK has no intention to extend the transition period, which expires on December 31. His warning came in the last Joint Committee meeting between the UK and EU before the final deadline to delay negotiations for up to years at the end of the month. Mr Gove said the decision to reclaim Britain’s sovereignty from the bloc would be vital in the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Cabinet Office minister said: “We have informed the EU today that we will not extend the transition period. The moment for extension has now passed.
“At the end of the year we will control our own laws and borders, which is why we are able to take the sovereign decision to introduce arrangements in a way that gives businesses impacted by coronavirus time to adjust.
“Today’s announcement is an important step towards getting the country ready for the end of the transition period, but there is still more work to be done by both Government and industry to ensure we are ready to see the opportunities of being a fully independent United Kingdom.”
The intervention has prompted Brussels to agree to intensify Brexit negotiations across the summer.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, finally conceded that a trade deal would have to be in place by the end of the year.
He said: “The EU has always been open to an extension of the transition period.
“At today’s Joint Committee, we took note of the UK’s decision not to extend.
“We must now make progress on substance. To give every chance to the negotiations, we agreed to intensify talks in the next weeks and months.”
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic added: “Gove was very clear, unequivocal, on the fact that the UK is not going to seek an extension.
“We take this decision as a definitive one, and therefore are pleading for acceleration on work on all fronts. “
It comes as UK officials unveiled plans for light-touch border checks with the EU from January 1.
Ministers want to ensure businesses are afforded maximum flexibility to boost trade after the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
From January standard imports from the bloc will only be covered by basic customs requirements, such as clothes and electronics, with a six-month grace period to submit the required documentation and pay any tariffs.
For live animal imports health checks will be carried out away from ports at their destination or other approves locations.
The new rules will be applied whether Britain secures a deal with the EU or not.
British industry has voiced support for the plans, with leaders praising the Government’s push for a flexible approach.
Elizabeth de Jong, Policy Director at the Freight Transport Association, said: “The logistics industry is extremely grateful for the measures announced by the UK government to stage the introduction of new trading arrangements between the EU and UK in the first six months after the transition period.
“They have listened to our concerns and made allowances to enable our sector to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and plan effectively so that we can continue to trade effectively with Europe.”
Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association commented: “This is very welcome news and we are pleased the Government has taken a sensible and pragmatic approach to the problem after listening to stakeholders such as the RHA.”