Hard Brexit after the coronavirus pandemic would leave many struggling to survive, warns SNP

A worker removes Union flags from flagpoles in Parliament Square, London, following events to mark t

A worker removes Union flags from flagpoles in Parliament Square, London, following events to mark the UK's departure from the European Union on January 31st. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA. - Credit: PA

A hard Brexit after the coronavirus pandemic at the end of the year would leave many struggling to cope with the pressures, the SNP has warned.

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford has written to Boris Johnson, who himself has been in self-isolation with mild symptoms after being diagnosed with coronavirus last month.

The letter asks Johnson to seek an extension to the current transition period in a bid to focus resources and efforts on tackling the pandemic - with failure to do so 'beyond reckless', according to the SNP MP.

He also pleads with the PM, saying: 'We are not asking you to change your views on Brexit - we are simply asking you to recognise reality.'

Blackford said: 'While the Prime Minister and I will never agree on Brexit, I hope we can at least agree that the Covid-19 crisis needs to be the priority.

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'This isn't about fighting old battles or rehearsing old arguments - it's about recognising the needs of people right now.

'It is simply impossible for businesses and others to prepare for life outside the EU while coping with the impact of the coronavirus at the same time.

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'The reality is that many will struggle to survive the second blow of a hard Brexit at the end of this year.

'This is not the time to pursue selfish and narrow political agendas.

'It's time for the prime minister to face down the Brexiteers and ideologues in his own Cabinet and on his backbenches.'

Last week, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier tested positive for Covid-19 as well.

A UK government spokeswoman said: 'Our top priority as a government is to slow the spread of the coronavirus, protect the NHS and keep people safe - we are working around the clock to do so, with all four nations together providing unprecedented financial support for businesses, workers and the self-employed.

'We remain fully committed to the negotiations. Last week, the UK and EU shared draft legal texts and discussions with the commission are continuing.

'The transition period ends on 31 December 2020, as enshrined in UK law, which the prime minister has made clear he has no intention of changing.'

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