Boris Johnson will have to ‘revisit the issue of transition’ if he cannot secure a trade agreement with the EU, the SNP’s leader in Westminster has said.
Speaking to the PA news agency, Ian Blackford underlined the need to “remain as closely aligned to the EU as we can because that’s what’s going to be essential to making sure that we protect trade opportunities between Scotland, the UK and the rest of Europe”.
Asked about the tone of the talks, he said: “Whether you’re talking about goods, or whether you’re talking about services…the harsh reality is if the UK government is talking about not aligning with the EU, then it’s going to take us into the situation that we are talking about tariffs and the impact on Scotland on jobs, on prosperity is something that would be of very grave concern for us.”
He added: “The responsibility that the UK government has in the absence of a comprehensive trade agreement and one that protects trade, one that protects jobs, one that protects investment is that we have to revisit the issue of transition…
“I would just wonder whether or not sense will prevail at some point and there’s a recognition that the impact of divergence and not having a sufficient period for transition, if the impact that that will have on jobs and will have on businesses and will have on communities.”
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His comments came as the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned there were “very serious divergences” with the UK following the first round of negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal.
The prime minister has ruled out extending the transition period beyond December 31, meaning the UK will do business with the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms on January 1 2021 unless an agreement with Brussels is in place.
Blackford dismissed as “fantasy” the idea “that some kind of trade deal can be done with north America over a quick period” without risks on tariffs or to the NHS.
He added: “The potential of a trade deal with the US is pretty marginal when it’s set aside what we stand to lose from not doing the right thing when it comes to trade arrangements with the EU.”