Delay Brexit for at least two years, SNP demands

The coronavirus crisis means the Brexit transition period should be delayed for the maximum time of two years, the Scottish Government's Constitution Secretary has said.

Michael Russell MSP. Picture Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Michael Russell MSP. Picture Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Mike Russell is calling for the UK Government to request a longer period of negotiation due to the global pandemic.

The UK Government has previously ruled out any extension, saying said it has "no intention of changing" the December 31 2020 date for ending the transition period.

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Brexit transition period can be extended for up to two years if a request is made before June 30 this year.

Mr Russell has also called for a joint meeting involving ministers from the four UK nations to discuss the approach to Brexit.

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."

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."