The first ministers of Scotland and Wales have called on the government to extend Brexit trade talks to allow more time to deal with the effects of the coronavirus crisis.
Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford wrote to the prime minister saying that leaving the talks without a deal would be ‘extraordinarily reckless’ given the current public health emergency.
Both governments have repeatedly lobbied 10 Downing Street to prolong negotiations, which are set to end on December 31. Boris Johnson and senior ministers have ruled out any extension, even if asked by the EU. The deadline for an extension is the end of June.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, the leaders 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 said that ‘fundamental issues’ still remained between the UK and EU negotiators and it claimed that, at best, there would only be a ‘bare bones’ trade deal in place by December.