European governments have put Brexit talks on hold as they try and cope with the coronavirus pandemic gripping the world. The European Parliament has said the crisis puts pressure on the chance of securing a trade deal by the planned date. The UK formally left the EU on January 31 and is now in the transition period aimed at sealing trading relationships, which is due to end on December 31.
Mike Russell, the Scottish Government’s constitution secretary, has said Scotland could not afford the “double hit” of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.
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.
“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.
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“An extension of the transition period is the only responsible thing to do.”
And the German MEP David McAlister said: “The coronavirus pandemic complicates the already very ambitious schedule.
“The EU has always been open to extending the transition period – the ball is now clearly in the British court.”
At the end of March, when Downing Street was asked if a delay was possible, a spokesman said: “The transition period ends on December 31 2020. This is enshrined in UK law.”