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Brexit transition period must be extended immediately, says Labour MP

By Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray has called for an “immediate” extension to the Brexit transition period due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter to Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, Mr Murray said “this is not a time for constitutional politics”, adding the Government focus should be on tackling Covid-19.

The transition period for the UK leaving the EU expires on December 31, with a deadline to request an extension set for June 30.

Mr Murray wrote: “I note that Scottish Conservative and Unionist leader Jackson Carlaw MSP has called for a ‘pragmatic response’.

“The pragmatic response for the UK Government is to urgently apply for an extension to the transition period.

“This is not a time for constitutional politics and business do not need any more uncertainty.”

He added: “The entire focus of all Governments in the UK must be on working together to tackle the coronavirus outbreak and then dealing with its aftermath to ensure our economy recovers.

“I therefore hope you will support your party leader in Holyrood, and business leaders across the UK, and address this issue with your Cabinet colleagues at the earliest possible opportunity.”

The letter also raised a number of other issues.

The Edinburgh South MP asked for assurances that MPs would return to Parliament in some form after the Easter recess, as well as the extension of the job retention scheme to those who have started a new job and concerns about people who are self employed.

Mr Murray outlined nine different issues in his letter, in which he also called on the Scottish Secretary to push for full transparency on how financial support sent from Westminster to Scotland will be spent by Scottish ministers.

Support will also be needed in local media, Mr Murray said, claiming newspapers are struggling to due to declining sales and advertising revenue during the crisis.

He said: “Without newspapers to hold those in power to account, our democracy will be fundamentally weakened.

“Would your office consider engaging with the Scottish Government to discuss what financial support can be offered to ensure Scotland’s local newspapers survive this crisis?”

The shadow Scottish Secretary, who was appointed by new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, went on to accuse the UK Government of not doing enough to repatriate citizens stuck abroad.

He said: “I do believe the UK Government can increase its efforts to get people home. Many airlines that are still operating are charging exorbitant fares which means commercial travel is not affordable for most.

“My constituents who are still stuck abroad need more certainty that their Government will get them home as soon as possible.”

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