A two-year extension to the Brexit transition period must be agreed to avoid further damaging the virus-hit economy, Scotland’s Constitution Secretary will tell UK Government ministers.
Mike Russell will attend a virtual meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) on Thursday, which involves ministers from the devolved nations and the UK Government.
The meeting is the first since January and Mr Russell plans to use it to press his demand for a Brexit extension.
The UK Government has previously ruled out any extension, saying it has “no intention of changing” the December 31 2020 date for ending the transition period.
Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Brexit transition period can be extended for up to two years if a request is made before June 30 this year.
Speaking in advance of the meeting, Mr Russell said: “In the midst of a global pandemic we urgently need an extension to the current transition period – which keeps the UK close to the EU – so that jobs and the economy will not face a further major hit on top of the coronavirus crisis at the end of the year.
“I will be setting out the case to UK Government ministers for a two-year extension to the transition period, to give businesses time to recover from the Covid-19 shock, and to allow time to negotiate, ratify and implement an agreement, rather than, as looks increasingly likely, heading for a disastrous no deal outcome.
“The UK Government has failed to engage properly with any of the devolved governments throughout the Brexit process and this week it published two highly significant documents – on the EU future relationship legal texts and a command paper setting out the UK’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol – neither of which were discussed with the Scottish Government. That is unacceptable.”
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We have worked closely with the devolved administrations at every step of this process and will continue to keep them updated on the progress of negotiations, to ensure we have a future relationship that works for all parts of the UK.
“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.
“Extending the transition period just prolongs the time when UK business does not know what its future trading arrangements will be or how to adapt to them. It is better to be clear now and minimise the uncertainty for businesses.
“We are supporting UK businesses throughout this period with an unprecedented package of measures, including grants, loans and our job retention scheme.”