First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford have called for an extension to the Brexit transition period during the coronavirus crisis in a meddling letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. They said a Brexit no deal would be “extraordinarily reckless”.
The pair said “fundamental issues” still remain between the UK and EU negotiators after the most recent round of talks on a deal.
They wrote: “While we hope that the second half of this year will see the beginnings of a recovery, we believe that exiting the transition period at the end of the year would be extraordinarily reckless.
“It would pile a further very significant economic and social shock on top of the COVID-19 crisis, hitting businesses whose reserves, in many case, have already been exhausted, leading to more business closures and redundancies.
“But in this case, the shock would be avoidable.
“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.
The Scottish Government has repeatedly called for the transition period to be extended beyond the December 31 deadline, but that can only be done if a request is made before the end of this month.
The teams have also agreed to “an intensified timetable” for July with possible discussions in person if public health guidelines enable them during the coronavirus pandemic.
European Council president Charles Michel and the president of the European Parliament, David-Maria Sassoli will also join the political talks.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The UK and the EU have agreed an intensified timetable for FTA negotiations in July.
“This new process will involve a mix of formal negotiating rounds and smaller group meetings, both in London and Brussels assuming public health guidelines enable this.”
The UK is in a transition period in which it continues to follow EU rules until the end of the year.
But businesses and critics have called on the UK to ask for an extension before the end-of-July deadline to prevent a damaging cliff-edge departure.
The UK’s 14-day quarantine period for new arrivals should not hinder the talks in its current form, with the rules having an exemption for those on official visits such as negotiations.
The new details came after the fourth round of negotiations failed to reach a breakthrough last week.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier lamented there having been “no significant areas of progress” as he accused the UK of having “backtracking” on the agreed political declaration.
The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said they would have to “intensify and accelerate” the process if there was to be any chance of an agreement.
Both sides also said the remote meetings had reached their limit and that face-to-face meetings would be needed in order to progress.
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