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First ministers demand Brexit extension in light of coronavirus crisis

By Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter

The first ministers of Scotland and Wales have called for an extension to the Brexit transition period.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford said “fundamental issues” still remain between the UK and EU negotiators after the most recent round of talks on a deal.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly called for the transition period to be extended beyond the December 31 deadline, but that can only be done if a request is made before the end of this month.

The UK Government has previously rejected any calls for an extension.

Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford warned in their letter that exiting the transition period at the end of this year, when the UK economy will just be beginning its recovery from coronavirus, would be “extraordinarily reckless”.

They wrote: “No-one could reproach the UK Government for changing its position in the light of the wholly unforeseeable Covid-19 crisis, particularly as the EU has made it clear it is open to an extension request.

“We therefore call on you to take the final opportunity the next few weeks provide to ask for an extension to the transition period in order to provide a breathing space to complete the negotiations, to implement the outcome, and the opportunity for our businesses to find their feet after the enormous disruption of recent months.

“At the time the Withdrawal Agreement was signed, 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.”

The letter claimed that, at best, there would only be a “bare bones” trade deal in place by December, or a move to a no-deal exit from the EU.

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