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UK formally rejects Brexit transition period extension

The U.K. Friday formally confirmed it will not seek an extension of the Brexit transition period beyond December 31, British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said.

Gove spoke with European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič and EU negotiator Michel Barnier at the second meeting of the EU-U.K. Joint Committee on implementing the Withdrawal Agreement earlier Friday, where he reiterated Downing Street's refusal.

The Joint Committee had to decide by the end of the month on whether to extend the status quo transition. However, there are no more meetings of the commitee planned until September, meaning the EU takes the U.K.'s decision "as a definite conclusion of this discussion," Šefčovič told journalists after the meeting.

"I have taken note of the position of the U.K. on this issue and have stated, as President Ursula von der Leyen did earlier, that the EU remains open to such an extension," Šefčovič said. However, he added: "We take this decision as a definitive one."

"In this context, we both agreed on accelerating the implementation of Withdrawal Agreement and to accelerate our work," the EU vice president said.

While Friday's meeting took place in a "very good atmosphere," Šefčovič warned there is still lots of work to do on implementing the different aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement, especially the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. He added that the U.K. has not provided sufficient detail on how the protocol will work in practice.

"We need to move from aspiration to operation, and fast."

However, despite rejecting an extension of the transition period, the U.K. said Friday it will not be able to implement full post-Brexit border controls on goods entering from the EU until July 2021.

Boris Johnson’s government said it will have to introduce its new customs regime in three stages, starting January 1, after acknowledging businesses concerns that the pandemic has hampered companies' preparations.

“At the end of this 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,” said U.K Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.

This means that for the first six months of the year, businesses will have extra time to complete customs declarations, can defer tariff payments, and physical border checks will only be carried out certain goods, the Cabinet Office said.

From July, traders will have to make full customs declaration on entering the U.K. and pay relevant tariffs. There will also be an increase in physical checks on food safety standards.

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