BRITISH International Freight Association director general Robert Keen says it would be irresponsible of the UK government to stick to Brexit transition timetable during the time of coronavirus.

Mr Keen said with Brexit negotiations stalled, a failure by the UK to seek an extension to the transition period meant it would not have the time to negotiate a deal covering anything more than the bare minimum of trade arrangements.

“The government is still insisting it will not request an extension, saying the December 31st deadline is enshrined in law, but whilst Boris Johnson might insist that Brexit is done, we know from our regular meeting with government departments that there is a huge amount left in the civil service’s EU exit in-trays, and everybody is completely overwhelmed with the crisis,” he said.

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“I understand that requesting an extension would be very difficult politically for the government, given the prime minister’s insistence that the Brexit process would not be delayed further, but true statesmen act in a statesman-like manner in times of global crisis, which is where we are now.”

Mr Keen said BIFA members share the uncertainty of others about how the coronavirus crisis will affect international trade.

“I for one wonder whether countries will remain committed to just-in-time global supply chains in trade, once this crisis is over, whenever that might be,” he said.

“And whenever it might be, it will not be a good idea to present business with a whole new set of uncertainties around a very significant change in the status of our economic relationship with Europe, either through no deal or through a very limited deal at the end of the year.”

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