Updated: Jun 2
BARNIER CONFIRMS EU "OPEN" TO TWO-YEAR EXTENSION TO TRANSITION PERIOD
TORY GOVERNMENT MUST ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY TO JOBS AND ECONOMY
The SNP has welcomed a letter from Michael Barnier confirming that the European Union remains open to a two-year extension to the Brexit transition period - and has called on Boris Johnson to accept the offer to protect jobs and the economy amid the coronavirus crisis.
In a letter to the Westminster leaders of the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Green Party and Alliance Party this morning, the EU's chief negotiator confirmed "an extension of up to one or two years can be agreed jointly by the two parties. The EU has always said that we remain open on this matter."
However, with just a month left until the deadline Mr Barnier confirmed "Any extension decision has to be taken by the Joint Committee before 1 July" - meaning the UK could crash out with a devastating bad deal or catastrophic No-Deal if Boris Johnson refuses to agree an extension by the end of June. Yesterday, EU officials warned there was a risk of 'stalemate' due to the lack of progress in the negotiations. The six parties, from every nation of the UK, wrote to Mr Barnier on 15th May calling for the UK and the EU to agree to a two-year extension. Polls from YouGov, Panelbase and Focaldata show the majority of people support an extension. A poll by Focaldata, published on 15th May, found eighty-three per cent (83%) of people in Scotland and seventy-seven per cent (77%) across Britain say the UK government should agree to an extension to the transition period.
Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP said: "Boris Johnson must finally put his responsibilities to jobs, living standards and the economy first - and urgently agree the two-year extension on offer to the transition period. "It would be madness to pile a Brexit crisis on top of the coronavirus crisis we already face - with unemployment soaring, businesses shedding jobs, and many struggling to survive. "Time is running out. There is just a month left to agree an extension to prevent the UK crashing out with a devastating bad deal or a catastrophic No-Deal. "If the Prime Minister fails to agree an extension he will be responsible for every job lost, every income slashed, and every business that goes under as a result of his bad Brexit deal. "The SNP will continue to press for a long extension to protect Scotland's economy - but the only way to guarantee Scotland's interests and protect our place at the heart of Europe is to become an independent country."