Brexit extension delay still possible under WTO rules, former minister reveals

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Boris Johnson has vehemently denied calls for a Brexit extension as he has vowed to leave with or without a trade deal by December 31 of this year. But Liam Fox explained the World Trade Organisation can give countries “time to adapt” during the Brexit process. Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Mr Fox said: “We have what are known as a differential treatments here which often allow countries with a clear destination time to adapt.

“I think it is way beyond the possible conjencture what the different scenarios might play out as.

“What is clear is that the director general no one belongs to a single country.”

He added: “I think everything should be done by the rules and there are number of precedents set here for transitions.

“There are number of precedents set here for differential treatments. That is a matter for the officials here.

“Remember the director general does not dictate to the system.”

His comments come as Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier will return to London for talks with the UK Government on Monday, but there is little sign so far of progress in the post-Brexit talks.

Mr Barnier will meet Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser David Frost for dinner before the sixth round of formal negotiations begin on Tuesday.

Key sticking points including the “level playing field” of measures designed to ensure fair competition between the UK and EU, fisheries and the governance of any deal will be on the agenda in Tuesday’s sessions.

Ahead of the talks Downing Street acknowledged that significant differences remained between the two sides.

T he Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “In terms of the discussions that we have been having throughout the intensified process, they have continued to be constructive but significant differences still remain on a number of important issues,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“Our position on our sovereignty, laws and fisheries is clear – we will not give up our rights as an independent state.

“We will continue to engage constructively with the EU on these key issues and will work hard to reach the broad outline of an agreement.


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“But as we have been clear all along, we are not asking for a special, bespoke or unique deal.”

The Prime Minister has previously said there was “no reason why we shouldn’t get this done in July” but that now looks a distant prospect, with No 10 instead saying talks should not continue into the autumn.

The UK has ruled out extending the transition period, meaning that the current arrangements with the EU will expire at the end of the year.

The spokesman said: “We don’t want talks to drag on into the autumn and want to make progress as quickly as possible in order to give certainty and clarity to business.”

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