Sturgeon orders Boris Johnson to secure immediate Brexit extension in meddling letter

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford have called for a Brexit delay during the coronavirus crisis in a meddling letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. They said a Brexit no deal would be “extraordinarily reckless”. They wrote: “While we hope that the second half of this year will see the beginnings of a recovery, we believe that exiting the transition period at the end of the year would be extraordinarily reckless.

“It would pile a further very significant economic and social shock on top of the COVID-19 crisis, hitting businesses whose reserves, in many case, have already been exhausted, leading to more business closures and redundancies.

“But in this case, the shock would be avoidable.”

This is despite Mr Johnson repeatedly ruling out an extension to the Brexit transition period beyond December.

Mr Johnson is set to take part in a virtual summit with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen to try to break the deadlock in post-Brexit trade negotiations before the pace of talks are intensified.

The Prime Minister and the European Commission’s president will take part in the “high level” talks on Monday, after negotiators on both sides acknowledged a lack of progress.

The teams have also agreed to “an intensified timetable” for July with possible discussions in person if public health guidelines enable them during the coronavirus pandemic.

European Council president Charles Michel and the president of the European Parliament, David-Maria Sassoli will also join the political talks.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The UK and the EU have agreed an intensified timetable for FTA negotiations in July.

“This new process will involve a mix of formal negotiating rounds and smaller group meetings, both in London and Brussels assuming public health guidelines enable this.”

The UK is in a transition period in which it continues to follow EU rules until the end of the year.

But businesses and critics have called on the UK to ask for an extension before the end-of-July deadline to prevent a damaging cliff-edge departure.

Number 10 said the pace of talks will be scaled up so negotiators will meet in each of the five weeks between June 29 and July 27. 

The UK’s 14-day quarantine period for new arrivals should not hinder the talks in its current form, with the rules having an exemption for those on official visits such as negotiations.

The new details came after the fourth round of negotiations failed to reach a breakthrough last week.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier lamented there having been “no significant areas of progress” as he accused the UK of having “backtracking” on the agreed political declaration.

The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said they would have to “intensify and accelerate” the process if there was to be any chance of an agreement.

Both sides also said the remote meetings had reached their limit and that face-to-face meetings would be needed in order to progress.

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