Sadiq Khan fumes over government's refusal to consider Brexit delay

17 April 2020, 12:12

By Adrian Sherling

The Mayor of London laid into the government for refusing to consider a Brexit extension during the coronavirus crisis, saying they are putting their own ideology over the country.

The government's leading Brexit negotiator said that no extension would be requested and any request from the EU would be rejected.

David Frost wrote: "Extending would simply prolong negotiations, create even more uncertainty, leave us liable to pay more to the EU in future, and keep us bound by evolving EU laws at a time when we need to control our own affairs.

"In short, it is not in the UK's interest to extend."

At a time when the government is at full stretch fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Sadiq Khan said the decision "beggars belief".

Speaking to LBC, he said: "I think the government is putting dogma ahead of the national interest.

"I think no one anticipated when they voted for Brexit that the key negotiations would fall at a time when all governments are rightly focussed on fighting a global pandemic.

"The last thing we need as we try to make our way back from the devastation that's been wreaked by coronavirus is more chaos and uncertainty.

James O'Brien asked Sadiq Khan about the government's refusal to request a Brexit extension
James O'Brien asked Sadiq Khan about the government's refusal to request a Brexit extension. Picture: LBC

"I'd urge the government to put political ideology aside and pursue the pragmatic route. That means get an extension so we and our European partners can focus on recovering from Covid-19, rather than also having to deal with a no-deal Brexit.

"The whole bandwidth of government is focussed on this, as it should be. The idea you've got some slack in the system for civil servants to work on a deal is not really realistic. And neither do the EU.

"We've had thousands of people losing their lives - and thousands more people will lose their lives. We've got a situation where the OBR is predicting a 30% drop in our GDP and the idea we could, at the same time, be planning for a no-deal Brexit, it beggars belief.

"And I'm angry that David Frost and the government are embarking down this road when we're trying to deal with Covid-19."

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

When James asked why the government may be pursuing that route, Mr Khan responded: "It's stubbornness, it's hubris, it's ideology. The Chancellor has said that the costs of dealing with Covid-19 are huge, they're humungous. We also know, from the government's own analysis, a no-deal Brexit is really, really bad.

"At a time when everyone is occupied by Covid-19, how is it even being considered as a sensible option?"