We need to focus on one crisis at a time – extending the Brexit transition period is the sensible course of action

The East of Scotland European Consortium (ESEC), representing 7 local authorities, is calling for an extension to the transition period during which the UK stays in the single market and customs union while discussions take place on the long term relationship with the EU.

With the deadline for being able to agree an extension to the Brexit transition period fast approaching, ESEC chair Will Dawson said: “We welcome the joint statement which says that Brexit talks will be intensified in July and both sides will pursue a new momentum, however we are disappointed that the UK Government has unilaterally ruled out an extension to the transition period.

“The UK and the EU need to conclude a deal by the end of October, so there is enough time for the agreement to be ratified. If there is no deal by this date, then more local government resources would have to be diverted to preparing for the inevitable economic fallout. Our officers had preparations for dealing with the threat of a no deal Brexit added to their roles on three separate occasions over the course of 2019. Many of these same officers are now working to mitigate the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus crisis. We are already in the frying pan, adding in the threat of a no deal Brexit means we are thrown into the fire.

“The UK has asked for an extension to the Article 50 process three times, despite the Prime Minister’s assurances that he would rather “die in a ditch” than do so. The difference this time is that the Article 50 process is over and we are now in the transition period. There can be no panicked requests for an extension at the 11th hour this time around. Instead, the formal request must be made 6 months ahead of the transition deadline – by 30th June 2020. Cool heads must prevail.

“It is the position of the Scottish and Welsh Governments that the UK Government should request an extension. It is also the position of COSLA, the national body which represents local government in Scotland.

 “We are of the position that the UK Government must agree an extension to prevent economic catastrophe for our communities. It would not be a sign of weakness but a sign of responsible and mature governance.”