EU leaders ARE open to Brexit extension, Michel Barnier says

THE EU is still willing to extend the Brexit transition period, its chief negotiator Michel Barnier has told Remain MPs.

The SNP and five other parties – Plaid Cymru, Lib Dems, SDPL, Green Party and Alliance – wrote to Barnier earlier this month calling on the EU and UK to agree a two-year extension which would give more time to agree the “divorce” deal.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly insisted he will not seek any such extension.

As such, the UK is wedded to the December 31 deadline.

That’s despite polls showing most people support an extension. Results published by Focaldata on May 15 reveal 83% of people in Scotland and 77% across the UK say the government should agree to this.

Now, replying to the parties, Barnier has confirmed: “We remain open on this matter.”

However, there is only a limited time left to agree such an extension – the door will close on July 1.

The Remain parties fear refusal to act now will increase the chances of the UK leaving the European Union under a bad deal or no deal at all.

Yesterday, EU officials warned there was a risk of “stalemate” due to the lack of progress in the negotiations.

Barnier’s letter states: “The European Union remains determined to build a new and ambitious partnership with the United Kingdom in the short time that is available, given your government’s repeated statements that it will not agree to an extension of the transition period.

“I take note of your views on a possible extension of the transition period. 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 1 July, and must be accompanied by an agreement on a financial contribution by the United Kingdom.

“Regardless of the extension issue, please rest assured that the EU side will continue to do its utmost to reach an ambitious and balanced partnership agreement with the United Kingdom, along the lines agreed with the Government of the United Kingdom in the Political Declaration in October 2019.”

Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader Ian 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.”

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