Scottish government calls for end to 'crippling uncertainty' as Brexit talks continue
The Scottish government has called for end to 'crippling uncertainty' as the Brexit talks missed yet another deadline.
Boris Johnson spoke to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen earlier today and agreed to carry on talking, despite saying talks would go no further than today.
In a joint statement they vowed to “go the extra mile” in an effort to avoid a no deal outcome on January 1.
Now the Scottish government's Cabinet Secretary for Europe and External Affairs Michael Russell has demanded answers.
He said: "It is now time for the crippling uncertainty over the future of our trading relationship with the European Union to come to an end.
"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 31 December 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."
A joint statement from the two sides explained the phone call had focused on “the major unresolved topics.”
It said: “Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over recent days.
“And despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile.
“We have accordingly mandated our negotiators to continue the talks and to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached.”
Speaking after the call, Mr Johnson suggested any failure to agree a deal would not be due to a lack of effort from him.
He said: “I’m afraid we’re still very far apart on some key things, but where there’s life, there’s hope.
"We’re going to keep talking to see what we can do.
"The UK certainly won’t be walking away from the talks.”
Responding to the latest missed deadline, Labour questioned the promises made by the PM during the election.
A spokesperson for the Labour Party said: “The Conservatives promised the British people that they had an oven-ready deal and that they would get Brexit done.
"The Government needs to deliver on that promise, get us the deal and allow us to move on as a country.”
Earlier today the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had accused the EU of "shifting the goalposts".
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, he said: “We were told a Canada-style agreement was available, you’ve just said it in your own terms, you’ve put it to me that the EU is not being now willing to offer us that.
“So let us be very clear, if we are forced into this position it is because the EU wasn’t willing to treat us like any other independent third country would expect to be treated and, indeed, how the EU would expect to be treated.
“I do think it is absurd that the EU has taken the approach that it has which means that German car manufacturers, French fishermen and women, the French farmers would suffer.
“And the common sense win-win in the free trade deal Canada-style is still there to be done."
The senior UK Government minister also argued that there needed to be political “willing” to secure a Brexit trade deal, and called for the EU to compromise.
He said: “You remember the PM has made clear we want to leave no stone unturned, so we’ve been at it very hard at the working technical level, with all the usual jousting of positions
“But what really matters is what the EU is willing at a political level to commit to.
“But I think we need to be really clear there’s two fundamental issues at stake – the issue of fisheries and the issue of the so-called level playing field.
“We want to be treated like any other independent self-respecting democracy.
"If the EU can accept that at a political level then there’s every reason to be confident, but there is still I think a long way to go.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Office minister David Duguid sparked fury after suggesting 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 per cent.
"That’s not currency fluctuation, that’s disaster.”
It comes as Britain's former ambassador to the EU warned securing a deal could go right to the wire.
Sir Ivan Rogers said: “It’s a very different question as to whether we get it by the end of the year.
“I think it’s odds against today, but I’m not sure the talks will break down today either.
“Most of these deadlines in Brexit over many years have carried on being broken and I suspect this might be the latest, but we will see.”
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