St Albans and Harpenden MPs divided over EU extension

The MPs for Harpenden and St Albans have conflicting views over an extension to the post-Brexit trad

The MPs for Harpenden and St Albans have conflicting views over an extension to the post-Brexit trade talks. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Should the coronavirus crisis force an extension to the post-Brexit trade negotiations? Local MPs remain divided over the issue despite the pandemic.

The UK left the European Union on January 31, and both sides have until December 31 to ratify a trade deal and rules for future cooperation.

A decision on whether the deadline should be delayed beyond the end of the year is due to be made by the end of June, but the UK government has already said it will not back any extension.

Asked whether he backed any extension to the talks, Harpenden MP Bim Afolami was resolute in his stance: “The Government remains committed to agreeing a free trade deal with the European Union by the end of 2020. The UK and EU have entered the third stage of negotiations for the trade treaty. Draft agreements on major areas, from law enforcement to energy cooperation, have already been exchanged.

“While tackling coronavirus is overwhelmingly the top priority for the Government and the European Union at this time, there has been no indication to suggest an extension on trade negotiations will be necessary.”

But his St Albans neighbour Daisy Cooper supports her party’s stance that an extension is required because of the impact of the pandemic: “Brexit Day has already happened, so this is not about fighting old debates, but instead it’s about common sense and saving lives. The government needs to put all of its energy into saving lives and ending the COVID-19 crisis, before negotiating a replacement deal with the EU. Let’s just do one at a time.

“This global pandemic is already producing a global recession - at a time when the government’s priorities are split, when we have a ‘no deal’ Brexit still on the cards and when we have a rising death toll in care homes. Let’s get an extension, so we can save lives first and get a Brexit deal second. International cooperation will be vital to both.”