As negotiations continue to stagnate, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has suggested a delayed Brexit may be possible.
The PM told reporters Britain’s transition out of the EU could potentially be deferred by “a matter of months” while an as yet undefined customs backstop is fully implemented for Northern Ireland. The current transition plan would see Brexit fully in effect by the end of 2020. Pro-Leave campaigners expressed distaste for prolonging Britain’s journey out of the EU, describing the plan for a delayed Brexit – which May emphasised was purely hypothetical at this stage – as “desperate” and costly.
Later this afternoon, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said May had not in fact proposed an extension to the transition period.
Meanwhile Brexit secretary Dominic Raab indicated MPs may not be able to implement a “meaningful vote” on a final deal, suggesting MPs would only be permitted to vote yes or no on whatever deal was reached by negotiators. The “meaningful vote” compromise would give MPs the power to amend the deal once it is brought to them and potentially send negotiators back to the table, potentially resulting in a further delayed Brexit.
Meanwhile as the UK attempts to re-enter the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement, which allows its participants to share open government procurement markets, as a single state, several members of the agreement have disputed its claim to entry.
Representatives of the USA, New Zealand, Ukraine, South Korea, Japan, Israel and Moldova have all expressed concerns about the UK’s application for re-entry; with the former six countries referencing the UK’s failure to provide specific information about its post-Brexit status in its application, particularly as much of this information is not yet available due to prolonged and delayed Brexit negotiations. British officials have claimed that it is a special case and should simply have its current membership extended or adapted alongside the EU.
Moldova’s objection has more to do with the question of access. The Moldovan economic counsellor to the WTO, Corina Cojocaru, and her team were refused UK visas last year for a visit to discuss Moldova’s post-Brexit relationship with the UK. The refusal delayed Brexit and trade discussions between the two countries. The Home Office did not comment on the reason for the refusal.
Cojocaru told Bloomberg that if her team had been unable to get visas for “six of seven months”, Moldovan suppliers would presumably have similar problems entering the UK to do business, leaving them unable to compete with vendors from other countries who may have an easier time getting into the country.