Boris Johnson's move to end EU trade talks an act of “reckless brinkmanship”, Nicola Sturgeon warns
The Scottish Government has reacted in outrage after Downing Street announced the UK would pull out of trade talks with the EU, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon describing the move as an act of “reckless brinkmanship” which would have a “disastrous” impact on Scotland’s economy.
The FM’s comments came after a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said that “trade talks are over”, claiming that: “The EU have effectively ended them by saying they do not want to change their negotiating position."
Boris Johnson previously warned that the UK would need to prepare for leaving the EU without an agreement, but while the EU has signalled a willingness to continue with negotiations, with chief negotiator Michel Barnier expected to arrive next week for more talks, the bloc said it would not do a deal "at any price".
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “There is only any point in Michel Barnier coming to London next week if he's prepared to address all the issues on the basis of a legal text in an accelerated way, without the UK required to make all the moves or to discuss the practicalities of travel and haulage.
"If not there is no point in coming."
But the comments provoked a furious reaction from the FM, with Sturgeon saying: “It is beyond belief that in the midst of a global pandemic and deep recession the Prime Minister is telling Scotland to get ready for a disastrous no deal Brexit.”
She added: “With less than three months until the end of the transition period, businesses and people across Scotland will be in despair at this extraordinary statement.
“At best this is reckless brinkmanship. At worst it means the UK Government is now actively pursuing a no deal outcome.
“The reality is Scotland’s economy is going to be damaged by a further needless hit to jobs at the worst possible time, with either a thin trade deal or no deal now the only possible outcomes.
“A completely unnecessary Brexit shock will hit many businesses already struggling with the COVID-19 crisis.
“A no deal outcome would be particularly disastrous. Scotland could see heavy tariffs on goods, which for some sectors would be crippling.
“Because of the hard-line Brexit position adopted by the UK Government any outcome is going to be damaging, but a no deal will mean the biggest hit to jobs. The Prime Minister must withdraw his threat to force the hardest possible Brexit on Scotland.”
With the Brexit transition period set to end in ten weeks, Downing Street had imposed a deadline for any deal to be set by Thursday. Speaking after it passed, the PM said it was time to prepare for a no deal Brexit with “high hearts and complete confidence”.
Johnson said: "I have concluded we should get ready for 1 January with arrangements more like Australia's based on simple principles of global free trade.
"So now is the time for our businesses to get ready, and for hauliers to get ready, and for travellers to get ready.
"For whatever reason it is clear from the summit that after 45 years of membership they are not willing – unless there is some fundamental change of approach – to offer this country the same terms as Canada.
"And so with high hearts and complete confidence we will prepare to embrace the alternative."