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UK says told EU 'formally' no Brexit transition extension

A demonstrator holds placards demanding extension of Brexit transition period outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, on Wednesday. (AFP-Yonhap)
A demonstrator holds placards demanding extension of Brexit transition period outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, on Wednesday. (AFP-Yonhap)


LONDON (AFP) -- The British government on Friday said it had officially told the European Union it would not seek an extension to the post-Brexit transition period beyond December 31 this year.

Britain left the bloc in January but remains under EU rules until the end of the year, as new terms are thrashed out between the two sides for their future relationship.

London maintains it does not need more time to secure a free trade deal, despite deadlock in the talks over key areas, and a tight timeline made more acute by the coronavirus outbreak.

Senior minister Michael Gove chaired further talks with EU leaders on Friday and said he had now formally stated the UK position.

"I formally confirmed the UK will not extend the transition period & the moment for extension has now passed," he tweeted.

"On 1 January 2021 we will take back control and regain our political & economic independence."

Gove's comments came with an expected June-end deadline approaching for Britain to ask for an extension, and just days before a top-level meeting between the two sides.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to speak to EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Monday to assess progress on four rounds of the trade talks.

The last round broke up earlier this month in stalemate, with no agreement made on key areas such as the extent of EU rights to UK fishing grounds and fair competition rules.

EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic said Gove "couldn't be clearer" about the British position, which the ruling Conservative made a key campaign pledge at last December's general election.

"This was the last (EU-UK) joint committee before the deadline is expired so we take this decision as a definitive one," he added.

He said Brussels was "pleading" for work to be speeded up across the board to secure a "very close and cordial relationship" by the start of 2021.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier noted that no extension had always been a UK red line and said it was important to "make progress on substance".

"To give every chance to the negotiations, we agreed to intensify talks in the next weeks and months," he added. (AFP)

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