Russell pushes for no-deal to be off the table as Brexit talks extended

Scotland’s Constitution Secretary has again called for no-deal to be taken off the table as Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU are set to continue.

Decisive talks between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday ended with the two sides agreeing to extend the deadline for a deal to be struck.

However, there has been no date set for the end of negotiations, with the UK due to leave the EU in less than three weeks, but the two said they would “keep going for as long as they still think a deal is possible”, a source said.

The continuation of talks has raised hopes that a deal can be struck, but the Prime Minister warned the two sides were still “very far apart”.

Mike Russell has again pushed for no-deal to be definitively ruled out by the UK, after Mr Johnson earlier said it was “very, very likely”.

“It is now time for the crippling uncertainty over the future of our trading relationship with the European Union to come to an end,” Mr Russell said.

“Whatever the outcome of these protracted talks we know there will be very significant damage to Scotland’s economy and society because of the UK Government’s decision to leave the transition period on December 31 in the middle of a pandemic and a recession.

“But we also know that the worst outcome of all would be the disastrous impact of a no-deal Brexit which would lead to significant tariffs and the UK Government must rule this out immediately.”

The Constitution Secretary has long railed against Brexit in any form, but before the talks were extended on Sunday he described leaving without a deal as “unthinkable”.

Meanwhile, Scottish Office minister David Duguid said he believed any trade tariffs imposed as a result of a no-deal Brexit were “not the end of the world”.

He told the BBC: “We talk about financial tariffs, we talk about non-tariff barriers, these are all the things we’re trying to avoid with a free trade agreement.

“We export from countries we don’t have free trade agreements with, on Australia terms for example, which is the expression often used.

“It doesn’t stop exports, it doesn’t stop trade.”

However, Mr Russell described the assertion by the minister as “nonsense”.

He said: “Tariffs on land, for example, a big issue in Scotland, would be 60%. That’s not currency fluctuation, that’s disaster.”