UK urged to request two-year Brexit extension

The Scottish Government’s Constitution Secretary Michael Russell has urged the UK Government to ask the European Union (EU) for the maximum two-year extension to the Brexit transition period.

Russell said it is essential for the UK Government to seek the full extension on offer to avoid further damage to the economy.

Russell said it was “reckless” for the UK Government to continue negotiations on its plans for a hard Brexit amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

Russell called for an urgent meeting to be held by videoconference with all four UK nations on the Joint Ministerial Committee (European Negotiations), which has not met in any form since January.

The UK and the EU are currently in a transitional period during which the UK is aligned with EU rules.

This will last until December 31, 2020, but under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement the period may be extended by mutual agreement by up to two years if the UK requests an extension before 30 June this year.

Russell 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 re-think 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. Clearly if it does not meet, it cannot oversee.”