The former permanent secretary of the Foreign Office (FCO) has said it would be “irresponsible” not to extend the Brexit transition period, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Simon Fraser, who was FCO permanent secretary from 2010 to 2015, said it is blindingly obvious that the transition period should be extended.
Speaking to Civil Service World, Fraser said:
“I can’t believe that behind the scenes, people aren’t talking about this because we’ve now got a situation where we’re near the end of March, there’s only been one negotiating session, [EU chief negotiator Michel] Barnier’s got coronavirus, everybody is completely overwhelmed with the crisis and I can’t see how we’re going to be able to channel resource into the Brexit negotiations in the near future.”
Fraser warned that if we keep the December deadline for Brexit talks, in many areas we will essentially end up with no deal – potentially adding to the economic pain caused by coronavirus.
“This is a major economic crisis,” he said.
“It’s going to affect the British economy and it seems to me it would be irresponsible, frankly, if we come out of this crisis in autumn to then present business with a whole new set of uncertainties around a very significant change in the status of our economic relationship with Europe, either through no deal or through a very thin deal at the end of the year,”
It might be politically difficult for Boris Johnson to change course now. But, if he wants to steer Britain away from an economic catastrophe, it’s frankly his only option.