FORMER Chancellor and Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid is facing calls to back an extension to the Brexit transition period if no trade deal with the EU is reached by the end of the month.
Hagley doctor David Nicholl, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for health in the West Midlands, said in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic an extension was needed.
Dr Nicholl said such a move would not prevent Brexit from happening and pointed to a YouGov poll in April which showed 56 per cent of people backed an extension and only 27 per cent were against it because of the negotiating time lost dealing with the Coronavirus crisis.
Under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement approved by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the transition period would come to an end on December 31 but the UK and EU only have until July 1 to extend talks on a potential trade deal.
Dr Nicholl said: “I highlighted the risks of patient harm from a no deal Brexit last year.
“This week the UK pharmaceutical industry warned some stockpiles of medical supplies have been ‘used up entirely’ by the fight against Covid-19.
“Polling shows that the majority of people support an extension so that we manage our exit from the EU safely, without harming patients.”
Dr Nicholl had previously written to Sajid Javid asking how many trade deals have been agreed so far and was informed the Government has identified 2,100 agreements with the EU and was prioritising replacing 176 of them.
The Government has declined to identify how many of these agreements have been replaced however.
Liberal Democrat councillor Janet King echoed the calls, saying: “It is very unlikely that a good deal with the EU can be achieved by the end of this year and there is a real danger of leaving with no deal.
“Coming as it does straight after the Covid-19 lockdown the UK economy would go into free fall with food prices rising and a real risk of a bad trade deal with the US.”
Mr Javid said he was in agreement with the Government’s approach.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Throughout the negotiations we’ve been clear that we will not extend the transition period and, if offered an extension from the EU, we won’t accept it.
“An extension would bind us into future EU legislation, without us having any say in designing it.
“We would still have to make large-scale payments to the EU.
“We would still be constrained by state aid rules meaning we need EU approval for support measures to our industry.
“And overall we would be bound to follow the EU’s decisions, which reasonably enough will be made in the interest of the 27 not the 28.
“Brexit is about economic independence and we gain more by being able to design our own rules to suit the best interests of our businesses and people in future.”