And Robert Oulds, director of the think tank Bruges Group, begged anti-Brexit campaigners including London Mayor Sadiq Khan and stalwart campaigner Steve Bray to accept the reality of Britain’s departure from the bloc, comparing failure to do so to a Japanese soldier who refused to surrender at the end of World War 2. July 1 marks another milestone in the process of Brexit because afterwards, neither side is permitted to request a further delay to the transition period.
Up until today, Article 132 of the Withdrawal Agreement stated that the Joint (UK/EU) Committee could adopt “a single decision extending the transition period for up to one or two years”.
The UK Government had repeatedly said such a move was not an option – but Mr Khan was among those who campaigned for an extension right up to the bitter end, tweeting on Monday: “No one anticipated that crucial Brexit deal trade negotiations would take place in the middle of a global pandemic.
“Asking for an extension would show that the government is willing to put the national interest ahead of political dogma.”
Meanwhile, veteran campaigner Mr Bray, well-known for his “Stop Brexit” battle-cry, even moved into an apartment opposite Jacob Rees-Mogg in January, after the EU Withdrawal Bill had been passed by the Commons, to continue his protest in Westminster.
Robert Oulds said the arrival of July 1 was “highly significant”.
He added: “From now on the Government is answerable to the British people and not the European Union.
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“The world has moved on, the Government has moved on.
“For their own sake, I say this in a bid to be magnanimous.
“I want them to realise what has happened and for their own sake.
“The lockdown is ending now, so soon they will able to go the park, as long as they are suitably socially distanced, and drown their sorrows.
“Perhaps they could establish some sort of support group.”
The UK and the EU – led by David Frost and Michel Barnier respectively – now have until the end of the year to agree a wide-ranging free trade deal.
Speaking this afternoon, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “We believe that there is a free trade agreement to be reached but we have also been very clear that we will be prepared for either eventuality at the end of the year, whether that be a free trade agreement or having a trading relationship based on the same terms that Australia currently has.”
However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested progress so far had been “very limited”.
Mrs Merkel told the German parliament although talks between the UK and EU were intensifying the EU “must be prepared” for the possibility that a deal will not be reached.