Mr Streeting tweeted a Government statement confirming the delay of the latest round of talks, which also reaffirmed the commitment of “both sides” to the negotiation process. He commented: “This is not a sustainable position.” He subsequently responded to a post by HMRC which referred to the reintroduction of border controls in January 2021, posting: “The idea that businesses should be contending with this in the current crisis exposes the utter stupidity of pretending that the transition period won’t need to be extended.
Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy made similar remarks to Mr Streeting earlier this month, tweeting: “The government can’t negotiate the future of Britain’s trade with the EU in a few months during what could well become a global coronavirus pandemic.
“Boris Johnson needs to swallow his pride and put the national interest first.
“That means agreeing an extension with the EU.”
During a sparsely attended PMQs today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was pushed about whether a one-year extension could be sought for the UK’s Brexit implementation process in the light of the ongoing crisis.
DUP MP Stephen Farry (North Down) said: “Defeating the coronavirus must be the top, indeed the only priority, for the forseeable future.
“There’s already huge anxiety across the UK, businesses are facing unprecedented challenge and uncertainty.
“So regardless of Leave or Remain, how quickly will the Prime Minister recognise the inevitable and seek at least a one-year extension to the Brexit implementation process?”
Mr Johnson responded: “Our priority is to deal with the coronavirus epidemic and the other matter that he mentions has already, as he will know, been legislated for.”
The statement referred to by Mr Streeting, which was issued yesterday, said: “In light of the latest guidance on coronavirus, we will not formally be convening negotiating work strands tomorrow in the way we did in the previous round.
“We expect to share a draft FTA alongside the draft legal texts of a number of the standalone agreements in the near future still, as planned.
“Both sides remain fully committed to the negotiations and we remain in regular contact with the European Commission to consider alternative ways to continue discussions, including looking at the possibility of video conferencing or conference calls, and exploring flexibility in the structure for the coming weeks.
“The transition period ends on 31 December 2020. This is enshrined in UK law.”
One group which remains vehemently opposed to the idea of extending the transition period is Moggmentum, the online campaign group launched five years ago in support of now-Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg.
A tweet from its official account said: “There is NO logical reason to want to delay #brexit further. Not one.
“The only people proposing this are people who never wanted us to leave in the first place.
“The transition will end at the end of the year and we will either have a FTA or the EU will have chosen WTO over it.”
A legal expert told Express.co.uk on Saturday: “The EU has 350m people and massive bureaucracies of officials in Brussels and member states to draw on to get the negotiation over the line.
“It’s absurd to think that a few people either being ill or fearing getting ill prevents anything. It clearly doesn’t.
“It may prevent all sorts of other things, but not the negotiations and it doesn’t amount to an obstacle to achieving the “best endeavours” outcome the EU is obliged to achieve under article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement.”
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