Gove rejects Scottish Government request to halt Brexit talks

The UK Government has rejected a call from Scotland’s Constitution Secretary to pause Brexit negotiations.

Mike Russell wrote to Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, requesting a halt to the withdrawal process during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the UK Government said it had “no intention of changing” the December 31 date for ending the transition period.

Mr Russell has now written again to Mr Gove to restate the Scottish Government’s case.

Mr Russell said there will be “dismay across Scotland” and much of the UK at the Government’s “intention to plough on with their plans for a hard Brexit, or indeed a no-deal Brexit, in less than nine months’ time”.

He questioned how the UK Government can be focused on tackling coronavirus while also pursuing Brexit negotiations and said there had been “no meaningful discussion of issues with the devolved governments for almost two months”, with none likely in the foreseeable future due to the pandemic.

He added: “But, bluntly, is the UK Government now expecting the Scottish Government to divert resources from tackling Covid-19 to carry out the necessary, extensive work that would be involved?

“There is still time to change course – and the UK Government should confirm without delay that they will seek the year’s extension that is on offer from June.  That would ensure that every effort is put to tackling the pandemic emergency.

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. The UK and EU have 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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