This briefing sets out the timetable for the UK-EU future relationship negotiations. It provides an overview of the debate on whether the post-Brexit transition period should be extended, and explains the process for extending this period.

UK-EU negotiations on the future relationship began in March following the UK withdrawal from the EU. Both the UK and EU are seeking to negotiate a new agreement that can be in place following the end of the post-Brexit transition period. The UK continues to be part of the EU single market and customs union during the transition period. The transition period will end on 31 December 2020, but it can be extended by UK-EU agreement for up to two years. Under the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) any decision to extend must be taken before 1 July 2020.

The diversion of political attention and interruption to the negotiating timetable because of the coronavirus crisis has led to increased calls for the transition period to be extended. The UK Government has said it will not seek an extension and will refuse one if the EU asks. The Government has also legislated to prohibit the UK agreeing to an extension. If the Government was to change its mind, new legislation to repeal this prohibition would need to be enacted. The terms of extension would also need to be negotiated with the EU. An extension would require agreement on its duration and on a UK financial contribution to the EU for the extended period. 

The WA does not allow for a decision to extend the transition period after 30 June. Some commentators have suggested that an implementation or transition phase similar to the current transition period could be agreed as part of a new future relationship agreement. Both the UK and EU have expressed scepticism towards this idea.