Nicola Sturgeon says exiting the Brexit transition period at the end of the year would be “extraordinarily reckless”.
The First Minister and her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to request an extension to complete negotiations and support businesses recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.
The joint letter says an extension is essential to avoid needless damage to Scotland’s economy at a time when Covid-19 is hitting businesses when they are most vulnerable.
The transition period is scheduled to finish on December 31 but can be extended by mutual agreement provided a decision is taken by July 1.
Sturgeon and Drakeford said: “Without an extension to the transition period, at very best there will only be a damaging ‘bare bones’ trade deal or even worse, a disastrous no deal outcome.
“We are mindful that the withdrawal agreement only permits an extension of the transition period if this has been agreed before the end of June.
“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.”
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove chaired a European Union Joint Committee meeting on Friday.
He posted on Twitter shortly after the meeting that he told EU officials the UK would not be requesting an extension to the transition period.
The letter written by Sturgeon and Drakeford says that exiting the transition period at the end of the year would pile a further very significant economic and social shock on top of the Covid-19 crisis.
“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,” the letter states.
Sturgeon and Drakeford added: “We, therefore, call on you to take the final opportunity which 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 to give our businesses the opportunity to find their feet after the enormous disruption of recent months.”