NICOLA STURGEON’S SNP has urged Boris Johnson to turn back on his “reckless decision” and delay Brexit for two years.
Mike Russell, the Scottish Government’s constitution secretary, said Scotland could not afford the “double hit” of both Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic. He urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to extend the transition period for two years as he urged for the “voices of all four UK nations” to be heard.
He said: “Instead of its reckless decision to pursue a hard Brexit in the middle of this unprecedented crisis, the UK Government should today be asking the EU for the maximum two-year extension to the transition period.
“The benefits of co-ordinated European action have never been clearer. An extended transition will keep the UK as close as possible to the EU and provide an opportunity to rethink the future relationship.
“The UK Government is pressing ahead with negotiations without properly involving the Scottish Government or taking account of our views.”
Brexit talks have been thrown into doubt as coronavirus continues to spread panic across the world, with Europe in deep lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
Mr Johnson is under pressure to seek an extension of its post-Brexit transition period beyond the end of the year, as negotiations on trade have ground to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But Downing Street has remained defiant, denying there will be a U-turn in Brexit policy.
Mr Johnson has ruled out delaying the date when Brexit would finally take effect following Britain’s 2016 vote to leave, and said London was also ready to withdraw from its current cooperation accords at end-year without a new deal.
But Mr Russell urged the Prime Minister to cooperate with all four UK nations on its approach to Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
He added: “The Scottish economy cannot afford the double hit of Covid-19 and the growing likelihood of a no-deal or at best a hard Brexit deal in less than nine months time.
“The voices of all four UK nations must be heard and I am therefore calling for an urgent meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (European Negotiations), which has the task of overseeing negotiations.
“Clearly if it does not meet, it cannot oversee.”
However a Downing Street spokeswoman said the government had “no intention” of changing Britain’s departure date.
She said: “Our top priority as a Government is to slow the spread of the coronavirus, protect the NHS and keep people safe – we are working around the clock to do so, with all four nations together providing unprecedented financial support for businesses, workers and the self-employed.
“We remain fully committed to the negotiations and the second round is taking place by video conference this week.
“The transition period ends on 31 December 2020, as enshrined in UK law, which the Prime Minister has made clear he has no intention of changing.”