Nicola Sturgeon warns Boris Johnson over ‘extraordinarily reckless’ Brexit deadline

Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives the media briefing in Downing Street on coronavirusPrime Minister Boris Johnson gives the media briefing in Downing Street on coronavirus
Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives the media briefing in Downing Street on coronavirus
Nicola Sturgeon has joined with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford to call for an extension to Brexit trade talks, warning Boris Johnson that “the end of this year is the worst possible time to end the transition period”.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford say it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to allow the UK to exit the transition period without a trade deal, meaning that tariffs and checks would be imposed on goods crossing in and out of the EU.

It comes as official figures confirm that UK GDP fell by 20% in April, the deepest one-month fall on record, as the full economic impact of the coronavirus lockdown is felt.

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Analysts have also warned that up to 10% of the UK workforce could be unemployed by the end of the year, with the Treasury revealing yesterday that a third of Scottish workers were either on furlough or being paid income support by the UK Government.

It was announced today that the full range of import checks will not be applied to goods arriving from the EU in January, regardless of the outcome of trade talks, in a bid to ease the impact of Brexit on an already fragile economy.

Mr Johnson will hold a face-to-face video conference with the presidents of the EU on Monday in a bid to break the deadlock in trade talks, with a July deadline looming to seek an extension to the transition phase.

The Prime Minister has insisted there will be no delay to ending the application of EU law in the UK. In their letter, the First Ministers write: “At the time the Withdrawal Agreement was written, 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.

“While we hope that the end 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 cases, have already been exhausted, leading to more business closures and redundancies. But in this case, the shock would be avoidable.”

“No-one could reproach the UK Government for changing its position in the light of the wholly unforeseeable Covid crisis, particularly as the EU has made it clear it is open to an extension request.”