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The Scottish Government has repeatedly called for the transition period to be extended with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon writing to Boris Johnson, warning “fundamental issues” still remained between the UK and EU negotiators. The party said they have concerns less than six months before the end of the Brexit transition period as recent talks reached a deadlock.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has repeated the bloc’s openness to an extension in a letter to leaders of smaller parties in Westminster, including the SNP, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru after they contacted him about the talks.
He said: “Such an extension of up to one or two years can be agreed jointly by the two parties. The EU has always said we remain open on this.
But under the terms of withdrawal from the EU, Britain only had until July 1 to decide whether to extend the transition period.
Now the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford will formally stress that the UK economy must come first.
Mr Blackford will say that with no good deal in sight and the country facing an economic crisis, it would be “reckless in the extreme” for the government to go ahead and pile a no-deal Brexit on top.
He will add: “Boris Johnson must put his responsibilities towards the economy first and agree to the Brexit transition extension on offer from the EU to protect people’s jobs and living standards.”
The MP will stress that the UK cannot afford the added damage a no-deal Brexit would add to an economy which needs all the help it can get.
He will point out many businesses are already struggling to survive because of COVID-19 and thousands of jobs have been cut.
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At the same time, the Scottish Government’s Monthly Economic Report stressed that a no-deal Brexit would have a “significant impact on economic activity” in Scotland.
It continued: “COVID-19 has resulted in an economic crisis in Scotland, through the direct impact on the economy but also the secondary impacts on health and society from a weaker economy.
“As we also move towards formally exiting the EU transition period (31 December 2020) uncertainty regarding future trade arrangements with key markets has the potential to impact already weakened business sectors and have a significant impact on economic activity, particularly if there is no deal.”
Scotland has already felt the impact of the pandemic after figures showed GDP fell 18.9 percent in April, the first full month of lockdown, and around 23 percent over March and April combined.
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However, figures for the month of May are due to be published by the Scottish Government next week.
Ms Sturgeon wrote in her letter to Boris Johnson: “No-one could reproach the UK Government for changing its position in the light of the wholly unforeseeable COVID-19 crisis, particularly as the EU has made it clear it is open to an extension request.
“We, therefore, call on you to take the final opportunity the next few weeks provide to ask for an extension to the transition period in order to provide a breathing space to complete the negotiations, to implement the outcome, and the opportunity for our businesses to find their feet after the enormous disruption of recent months.
“At the time the Withdrawal Agreement was signed, no-one could have imagined the enormous economic dislocation which the COVID-19 pandemic has caused – in Wales, Scotland, the whole of the UK, in the EU and across the world.”
The letter claimed that, at best, there would only be a “bare-bones” trade deal in place by December, or a move to a no-deal exit from the EU.
But Boris Johnson and UK chief negotiator David Frost has ruled out any such extension.
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