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IMF chief eyes deadline extension to Brexit trade deal

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 04, 2020 IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks at a press briefing on COVID-19 in Washington, DC. . – The head of the International Monetary Fund pleaded for an extension of the deadline allowing the negotiation of the post-Brexit relationship of the European Union with the United Kingdom, asking not to “add” to “the unprecedented uncertainty” of the pandemic of coronavirus. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP)

IMF head Kristalina Georgieva on Thursday suggested that Britain and the EU extend their deadline on striking a post-Brexit trade deal in the face of coronavirus uncertainty.

In reaction, the UK once more insisted that it would not demand an extension to the December 31 deadline after the country finally departed the European Union at the end of January.

Asked if she would advise on an extension, the head of the International Monetary Fund, which this week warned the global economy faced its worst recession in a century over the coronavirus, told the BBC:

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“My advice would be to seek ways in which this element of uncertainty is reduced in the interests of everybody, the UK, the EU, and the whole world,” said Georgieva.

“I really hope that all policymakers everywhere would be thinking about” reducing uncertainty.

“It is tough as it is, let’s not make it any tougher,” Georgieva added.

The IMF has warned that the coronavirus pandemic is pushing the global economy into the deepest recession in one hundred years, cutting world output by three percent in 2020, and cautioned that the crisis could get even worse.

British and European Union officials meanwhile have agreed to schedule three new rounds of post-Brexit trade talks, starting next week by video conference, after the coronavirus epidemic disrupted negotiations.

However, a joint statement following a call between EU negotiator Michel Barnier and UK counterpart David Frost made no mention of postponing the end of Britain’s transition out of the bloc beyond the end of the year.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists there is no question of the UK remaining under EU rules after December 31, while some observers have warned that the COVID-19 outbreak has made a quick deal impossible.

Johnson’s Downing Street office on Thursday reiterated the UK position.

“We will not ask to extend the transition period, and if the EU ask, we will say no,” a spokesman told reporters.

“Extending the transition would simply prolong the negotiations, prolong business uncertainty… It would also keep us bound by EU legislation at a time when we need legislative and economic flexibility to manage the UK response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The UK government was Thursday set to extend its nationwide lockdown for another three weeks, as the country’s official coronavirus death toll approached 13,000.

The British economy could shrink by 13 percent this year in the case of a three-month lockdown, according to the government.

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