Labour expected to join opposition demands for Brexit transition extension
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said Labour “absolutely do not want” the UK to exit the transition period in December without a deal.
Her comments came as Europe's chief Brexit negotiator was told there is “significant opposition” to the UK government's refusal to consider extending the timetable for talks.
Talks are currently taking place between the UK and EU to determine key areas such as future trading relationships, but with the transition period due to expire at the end of this year, there are fears the UK may be forced into a no-deal scenario, if an agreement cannot be reached.
Speaking on Sky’s “Sophy Ridge on Sunday” Ms Reeves said: “I would say to the government the most important thing is we get a good deal, not any deal, but the best deal we can have.
“The last thing our country and our economy needs at the moment is a further shock that could put jobs and livelihoods at risk. So, don't rush this, all of the attention of government at the moment is on fighting the coronavirus, that is the right thing, don't rush this, take the time that is needed.
“But at the moment the Government is saying we can still do this by the end of the year and we need to hold them to account to getting not just any deal, but the best deal we can, by the end of this year."
She said the government must outline a new timetable if it cannot secure a good Brexit trade deal by the end of the year.
“We're saying they mustn't rush this and if they are not going to secure a deal, they mustn't crash out without a deal - so that means taking the time that is necessary but it's up to the government to show they can deliver on the promises they've made to the British people.
“That is getting a good deal and a good deal by the end of this year, and if they're not in a position to do that they need to come back and explain a timetable.”
The letter to Michel Barnier, which was also signed by Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts, Green MP Caroline Lucas, Stephen Farry, MP from the Alliance Party, as well as fellow Northern Ireland MP Colum Eastwood of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, said an extension was needed to allow talks to take place when “the efforts of national governments and the European Union will not be engaged solely with dealing with the dreadful Covid-19 epidemic”.
The opposition politicians contacted Mr Barnier to highlight the “significant opposition to the UK Government's extreme position amongst the business community, the general public and elected representatives.”
The noted the Scottish and Welsh governments both backed an extension of the transition period, along with “the majority of political parties in the Northern Ireland Executive”.
The MPs said: “A consensus is taking shape and we hope the UK Government will soon recognise reality. It is now in all of our common interests to agree and secure an extension to the transition period. This will enable these detailed and defining negotiations to be conducted at a time when, we hope, the efforts of national governments and the European Union will not be engaged solely with dealing with the dreadful Covid-19 epidemic.”
Mr Blackford said they had written to Mr Barnier because “time is running out until we hit the hard Brexit deadline”.
He insisted: “It is vital that the Tory government does the only responsible thing and accepts a two-year extension to the transition period.
“Crashing out with a bad deal or no deal in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, would deal a double hammer blow to the economy just when we will need all the help we can get to save jobs, businesses and living standards.”
But he claimed: “It increasingly appears the Tory government is intent on taking Scotland and the UK down the path of a devastating no-deal. That would be beyond reckless.
“The coronavirus economic crash is the worst in living memory. People and businesses are already struggling to get by. The Tory government must put its responsibilities to the economy ahead of its Brexit obsession.
“Polls consistently show that the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland and across the UK want to see an extension to the Brexit transition period - and there is growing consensus across political parties. It's time for the UK Government to act.”
A UK government spokesman said: “The Government was elected on a manifesto which made clear the transition period would end on December 31, 2020. That is enshrined in primary legislation and it remains our policy.
“We will not ask to extend the transition period, and if the EU asks we will say no.
“Extending the transition period would simply increase uncertainty and prolong the negotiations, whilst also leaving us bound by EU legislation and obliged to make further payments into the EU budget.”
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