EU open to two-year Brexit extension, says Michel Barnier

The European Union is "open" to a two-year Brexit delay, chief negotiator Michel Barnier has confirmed.

In a letter to the Westminster leaders of the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Green Party and Alliance Party, Mr Barnier said the option of an extension to the Brexit transition period is available if the UK wants it.

The leaders of these parties had previously written to Mr Barnier on May 15 calling for a two-year extension to be agreed between the UK and the EU amid the growing negotiations deadlock.

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Pictures of the week: May 24 - 30
MERTHYR TYDFIL, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 29: An aerial view of low water levels in the Llwyn-on reservoir in Taf Fawr valley on May 29, 2020 in Merthyr Tydfil, United Kingdom. The Met Office have said May is on course to be the driest in 124 years with only 14.3mm of rain since the month began - 17% of what is normally expected. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Street artist Gent 48 finishes his latest mural Forward in Unity, which has been commissioned by Art For Charity to raise money for the Lord Mayor's Charity and celebrate the spirit of the people of Birmingham during the coronavirus pandemic, in Meriden Street, Digbeth, Birmingham. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
People exercise in Burgess Park in south London on May 29, 2020. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman, Tina Jane from Shoreham, sings songs out the back of her car to entertain the people that live on her street after the Clap for Carers, as the UK continues to ease out of lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
New and used cars are on show at a Mercedes-Benz Brooklands and Mercedes-Benz World car dealership near Woking, southwest England on May 29, 2020. - The motor trade is calling for the UK to introduce a car scrappage scheme to help jump-start the economy and replace older, more polluting models. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Racehorses on the gallops at Newmarket. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)
A quiet 'rush hour' at Waterloo Station as the UK eases some restrictions in it's tenth week to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings leaves his residence in north London on May 28, 2020. (Photo by Justin TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Kirklees council employees prepares orders of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at its hub where they will be dispatched to various council run settings in Huddersfield, northwest England on May 28, 2020. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
A quiet 'rush hour' at Waterloo Station as the UK eases some restrictions in it's tenth week to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Samples are taken at a coronavirus testing facility in Temple Green Park and Ride, Leeds, as NHS Test and Trace - seen as key to easing the lockdown restrictions - is rolled out across England. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
BLACKWOOD, WALES - MAY 28: A general view of an entrance to a children's play area where restrictions on entrance remains enforce since the start of the pandemicon May 28, 2020 in Blackwood, Wales, United Kingdom. The British government continues to ease the coronavirus lockdown by announcing schools will open to reception year pupils plus years one and six from June 1st. Open-air markets and car showrooms can also open from the same date. (Photo by Huw Fairclough/Getty Images)
A workman removes graffiti from a wall near the north London home of the Prime Minister's top aide Dominic Cummings as the row over his Durham trip during the coronavirus lockdown continues. (Photo by Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images)
Assistant manager Claire Welford administers a coronavirus swab test on resident Harry Hall, 94, at the Eothen Homes care home in Whitley Bay, Tyneside, where all staff and residents are being tested for coronavirus. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
WEST KINGSDOWN, ENGLAND - MAY 26: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been shot in black and white. Color version not available.) GB Paralympian Johnboy Smith trains at home during the Coronavirus Pandemic on May 26, 2020 in West Kingsdown, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Margaret Yeoman, 90, sees her son John Yeoman, 62, and his wife Denise Yeoman, 63, for the first time in eight weeks as they visit her at the Eothen Homes care home in Whitley Bay, Tyneside, their first in person contact since lockdown began. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
SOUTHEND-ON-SEA, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 25: People are seen on the beach amid coronavirus (Co-vid 19) pandemic on May 25, 2020 in Southend-On-Sea, United Kingdom. (Photo by Kate Green/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The public enjoying the Bank Holiday sun on Wandsworth Common as the UK eases some restrictions in it's tenth week to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 25: Dominic Cummings arriving at his home in London, United Kingdom on May 25, 2020, after the Number 10 Downing Street special advisor delivered a statement following allegations that he and his family travelled 260 miles during lockdown. (Photo by Isabel Infantes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A woman carrying a pug on Wandsworth Common as the UK eases some restrictions in it's tenth week to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
ENFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 25: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur during the Tottenham Hotspur training session at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on May 25, 2020 in Enfield, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
A view of a coronavirus awareness graffiti and a tribute to NHS workers drawn on a wall during the coronavirus crisis. (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 25: A man wearing a face mask walks past a sign calling for the resignation of Dominic Cummings outside his home in London, United Kingdom on May 25, 2020, after the Number 10 Downing Street special advisor delivered a statement following allegations that he and his family travelled 260 miles during lockdown. (Photo by Isabel Infantes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
STOURBRIDGE, ENGLAND - MAY 25: A family watch the sunset at Clent Hills on May 25, 2020 near Stourbridge, Worcestershire, England. The British government has started easing the lockdown it imposed two months ago to curb the spread of Covid-19, abandoning its 'stay at home' slogan in favour of a message to 'be alert', but UK countries have varied in their approaches to relaxing quarantine measures. (Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 25: A Greylag Goose by the lake in Regents Park on May 25, 2020 in London, England. The British government has started easing the lockdown it imposed two months ago to curb the spread of Covid-19, abandoning its 'stay at home' slogan in favour of a message to 'be alert', but UK countries have varied in their approaches to relaxing quarantine measures. (Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 25: Members of the public sunbathing by the lake on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday in Regents Park on May 25, 2020 in London, England. The British government has started easing the lockdown it imposed two months ago to curb the spread of Covid-19, abandoning its 'stay at home' slogan in favour of a message to 'be alert', but UK countries have varied in their approaches to relaxing quarantine measures. (Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)
SOUTHWOLD, ENGLAND - MAY 25: A motorcyclist known as the Grim Reaper poses for a portrait on May 25, 2020 in Southwold, United Kingdom. The British government has started easing the lockdown it imposed two months ago to curb the spread of Covid-19, abandoning its 'stay at home' slogan in favour of a message to 'be alert', but UK countries have varied in their approaches to relaxing quarantine measures. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
SOUTHWOLD, ENGLAND - MAY 25: Members of the public buy drinks from the Red Lion public house on May 25, 2020 in Southwold, United Kingdom. The British government has started easing the lockdown it imposed two months ago to curb the spread of Covid-19, abandoning its 'stay at home' slogan in favour of a message to 'be alert', but UK countries have varied in their approaches to relaxing quarantine measures. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
A woman stands with a dog as she photographs a mock signpost, giving directions to Barnard Castle, southwest of Durham, placed near to the home of 10 Downing Street special advisor Dominic Cummings, in London on May 25, 2020 following his admission he drove and stayed in Durham during the coronavirus lockdown. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's top aide Dominic Cummings defied calls to resign on Monday over allegations that he broke coronavirus rules and undermined the government's response to the health crisis. Cummings told reporters that he acted "reasonably and legally" when he drove across the country with his wife while she was suffering from the virus, despite official advice to stay at home. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 25: Manchester City's Pep Guardiola in action during training at Manchester City Football Academy on May 25, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)
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The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford welcomed the letter and called on Boris Johnson to accept the offer to help protect the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Brexit transition began when the UK legally left the EU on January 31 and is due to conclude at the end of the year.

The Government has repeatedly said the transition period will not be extended beyond December 31.

In his letter on Wednesday, Mr Barnier said: "Such an extension of up to one or two years can be agreed jointly by the two parties.

"The European Union has always said that we remain open on this matter.

"Any extension decision has to be taken by the Joint Committee before July 1, and must be accompanied by an agreement on a financial contribution by the United Kingdom."

Responding to the letter, Mr Blackford 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."

The Lib Dem leadership candidate Layla Moran urged Mr Johnson to "put his pride aside" and agree to an extension of the transition period.

She said: "The transition period was designed to give us time to secure a trade deal and make preparations for it to come into effect.

"That time has already, and understandably, been decimated by the Coronavirus response. This makes a dangerous No-Deal Brexit more likely at the end of the year, unless we extend the transition period.

"I am urging the Prime Minister to put his pride aside, tackle the crisis in front of him and take the extension he's being offered."

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