Leaving the EU: Transition Period

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Darren Henry Darren Henry Conservative, Broxtowe

What steps he is taking to ensure that the transition period ends on 31 December 2020.

Photo of Christian Wakeford Christian Wakeford Conservative, Bury South

What steps the Government are taking to ensure that the transition period ends on 31 December 2020.

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

The transition period ends on 31 December 2020. Under no circumstances will the Government accept an extension. Indeed, we have a domestic law obligation not to accept. Extending would simply delay the moment at which we achieve what we want and what the country voted for: our economic and political independence.

Photo of Darren Henry Darren Henry Conservative, Broxtowe

I am keen to ensure that new arrangements following the end of the transition period work for small businesses in Broxtowe. Will my right hon. Friend outline what steps he is taking to support small businesses facing considerable uncertainty over their future because of the covid-19 pandemic and the end of the Brexit transition period?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

My hon. Friend is right that small and medium-sized enterprises face particular challenges at this time, and that is one reason the Government are doing everything they can to ensure that customs intermediaries and others who can support small businesses to continue to export—indeed, to enlarge their export profile—are put in place.

Photo of Christian Wakeford Christian Wakeford Conservative, Bury South

Does the Minister agree that businesses, not just in Bury South but right across the country, simply want to remove the uncertainty that comes with prolonging negotiations and feel safe in the knowledge that a firm mandate for the negotiations will allow businesses to prepare properly and prosper?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I know that the businesses for which he speaks up so effectively in Bury South and elsewhere want uncertainty removed. That is why we are clear that we will end the transition period on 31 December, which is a position I understand the CBI is now in favour of.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (International Trade) (Brexit and EU Negotiations), Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) (Brexit and EU Negotiations)

The Minister talks about certainty, and he is right: businesses need certainty on the outcome of the talks. On Tuesday, the Paymaster General told the House:

“On…
zero tariffs and zero quotas, our policy has not changed.”—[Official Report, 9 June 2020;
Vol. 677, c. 161.]

That was the pledge the Conservative party won the election on. But last week, the Government’s chief negotiator wrote:

“we would be willing to discuss a relationship that was based on less than that”.

Who is speaking for the Government—the Paymaster General or their chief negotiator?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

The Paymaster General speaks eloquently and powerfully on behalf of the Government, and it is right that we seek what the political declaration also commits the European Union to, which is a zero-tariff, zero-quota arrangement.