Boris Johnson asked to extend transition period amid coronavirus pandemic
Pressure has been put on prime minister Boris Johnson to delay Brexit amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The largest group of MEPs said that the pandemic puts additional pressure on ensuring a trade deal by the intended date.
A spokesman for the prime minister said that there were no plans at present to delay the current timetable.
The plea from MEPs follows meetings between UK and EU representatives discussing the withdrawal agreement via video link.
Following the agreement, the UK will enter into a transition period under which it will abide by EU rules until the end of this year. It is hoped that the EU and UK will agree a trade deal by this time.
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Downing Street have confirmed that talks to secure a trade deal are still taking place over the phone.
Christophe Hansen, the European People’s Party MEP and a negotiator for the parliament’s international trade committee has said that: "Under these extraordinary circumstances, I cannot see how the UK government would choose to expose itself to the double whammy of the coronavirus and the exit from the EU single market, which will inevitably add to the disruption, deal or no deal.
"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."
MEP David McAllister supported this, saying that: "The coronavirus pandemic complicates the already very ambitious schedule.
"The EU has always been open to extending the transition period - the ball is now clearly in the British court.”
The prime minister’s spokesman said that: "The transition period ends on December 31, 2020. This is enshrined in UK law."