Extending the Brexit transition
The Coronavirus crisis is – at least in the short term – the greatest disruption that our economy and society has faced in most of our lifetimes. Governments, including our own, are taking steps to protect their citizens, services and businesses that would only a few short weeks ago have seemed unthinkable outside of wartime.
Yet there is one obvious step that the Government could take to protect our society and economy, which is to request an extension of the Brexit transition period. They have failed to do this.
The end of the Brexit transition is 31 December 2020, but there are only 3 months before the 30 June deadline by which the UK Government must request an extension. To do that the Parliament must first amend or repeal the legislation it passed earlier this year to set the end of the Brexit transition as 31 December 2020.
Why extend the transition?
There are several very good reasons to extend the transition.
How can complex negotiations for a UK-EU trade deal, even a highly disruptive minimal deal, continue and be successfully concluded by the end of this year while the UK, the EU and EU member states are grappling with the impact of the Coronavirus? Even without Coronavirus crisis that was a very tall order given the complexity of the negotiations, but now extending the transition and delaying the negotiations is the only reasonable course of action.
How could any responsible UK Government inflict on businesses the additional costs and disruption to markets and supply chains that would result from a Canada type deal, just as they are starting to recover from the impact of Coronavirus. Of course if the deadline is not extended there is also a real risk of much graver disruption of trade in goods and services if no deal is agreed by 31 December.
Finally, it’s clear that Coronavirus and the responses to it are reshaping our society and economy in ways that we cannot now predict. How can any of the participants in the trade talks know if the negotiating priorities and red lines they identified in February will still be there in November or December? Now is not the time to rush into a hastily bodged together deal. The Government and Parliament must allow time after the COVID-19 crisis has ended to take stock and rethink what our priorities as a society and relationships with other states should be.
It’s not only officials and business who want an extension of the transition, polling shows that the public overwhelmingly back an extension. But how can we let the Government know at this time when most campaign activity is suspended due to coronavirus? There are three things we can all still do!
Campaign actions you can (still) take!
The first thing we can all do is sign the European Movement petition demanding that the transition is extended.
Best for Britain have also launched one focused on protecting scientific research collaboration, and there is even a Parliamentary Petition you can sign.
The second thing you can do is to write a letter or email to your MP to ask them to back a transition period, perhaps using the talking points above. Our website has contact information for local MPs and tips on writing to them.
The third option is to write a letter to your local newspaper, so that other people – and politicians – in your community can see that there is support locally for extending the transition period. Our website lists several of the larger newspapers in our area, and also has tips on writing letters to the editor.
Protecting EU nationals in the UK
The Coronavirus crisis is affecting us all, but is creating particular difficulties for many EU nationals living in the UK.
A recent article in Europe Street News reports on several problems identified by groups that work to support EU nationals. These include delays in accessing financial support faced by those with pre-settled status, uncertainty over whether those with pre-settled status who are outside the UK for more than 6 months due to Coronavirus will lose their residency rights, and the closing down of Government helplines for those applying for settled status…as the clock keeps ticking down to the application deadline of 30 June 2021.
In response Another Europe is Possible have launched the Right to Stay campaign to give EU nationals automatic residency rights, protecting their rights to live and work in the UK (as promised by the Leave campaigns in 2016 but since reneged on).
Extending the transition would of course also help EU nationals, giving more time to ensure that none are left behind without the rights they have earned.
The charity Settled is for now unable to run street stalls, drop-in sessions or face to face meetings with EU nationals who are struggling to complete their settled status applications, but they are continuing to offer support online and by phone.
If you have any questions regarding the EU Settlement Scheme, or you just need a simple clarification, please do not hesitate to contact Settled at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you prefer to speak with Settled over the phone you can give your name, contact details, a brief outlining of the nature of your query and your preferred language for communications, and they will come back to you within 48 hours!
Charities like Settled and Here for Good are doing an excellent job at a very difficult time, so please support them if you can.
Thanks for your support, and stay safe!