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Johnson to stick to December 31 Brexit transition deadline

The top official at Britain's foreign ministry said on Tuesday that he expected Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stick to the existing end of December deadline to reach a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union.

The UK Government has repeatedly insisted it has no plans to extend the post-Brexit transition arrangements due to end on December 31, despite the coronavirus pandemic which has hit Britain and much of Europe hard and disrupted negotiations.

Asked by an MP whether this deadline was still realistic, Sir Simon McDonald, permanent undersecretary and head of the diplomatic service at the foreign ministry, said it was "clearly an option" to extend the transition period.

"But the government’s attachment to that deadline is equally clear," he told parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee.

Both sides would have to agree by the end of June to extend the period by one or two years. The British parliament has passed a law ruling that out.

Sir Simon said the question of an extension was one the government would need to consider "in the next weeks" and would be one of the first things Mr Johnson, who is currently recovering from Covid-19, would have to decide on when he returns to work.

"I believe the prime minister will confirm the existing timetable," he said. (Reuters)