Coronavirus latest news: UK lockdown measures are ‘making a difference’ but worst is yet to come, Sir Patrick Vallance says

Calls for Britain to extend Brexit negotiations due to Covid-19

The European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group in the European Parliament, has called on Britain to extend the Brexit trade negotiations beyond the end of the year because of the coronavirus pandemic, James Crisp, our Brussels correspondent, reports.

“I can only hope that common sense and substance will prevail over ideology. An extension of the transition period is the only responsible thing to do”, said Christophe Hansen MEP, negotiator of the post-Brexit agreement in the parliament’s Committee on International Trade .

The EPP counts Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and Michel Barnier as its members. Its MEPs form the largest bloc in the parliament.

Downing Street has ruled out any extension.

“The Coronavirus pandemic complicates the already very ambitious schedule”, said David McAllister MEP, Chair of the UK Coordination Group in the European Parliament. “The EU has always been open to extending the transition period. The ball is now clearly in the British court. The United Kingdom would have to submit an official request. So far, the UK government has constantly rejected such an option. Under the current circumstances, London should carefully re-examine a prolongation.”

The European People’s Party is the largest and most powerful grouping in the European Parliament. It contains the CDU and CSU, the parties that lead Germany in coalition, the Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael. The Conservative Party is a former member of the EPP – David Cameron withdrew his party from the group in 2009.