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THE government came under pressure today to extend the Brexit transition period in order to concentrate on tackling the evolving coronavirus crisis.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and London Mayor Sadiq Khan both called on the government to push back Britain’s withdrawal from the single market.
Britain is set to leave the single market and customs union on December 31 and will face tariffs and quotas on trade with the EU unless a deal is reached.
But Ms Sturgeon said that Britain faces a “profoundly serious situation” because of the virus mutation. At a lunchtime briefing, the SNP leader said: “It’s now imperative that [Prime Minister Boris Johnson] seeks an agreement to extend the Brexit transition period.
“The new Covid strain — and the various implications of it — means we face a profoundly serious situation and it demands our 100 per cent attention. It would be unconscionable to compound it with Brexit.”
Mr Khan warned that the NHS could find itself under increasing pressure.
He said: “Securing our key supply chains and fighting the coronavirus pandemic requires the full and undivided efforts of ministers more than ever before.
“Risking the chaos and uncertainty of a no-deal Brexit was reckless even before the latest surge in Covid cases and the worrying news about this latest strain.
“With the virus spreading rapidly and our hospitals increasingly stretched, the only thing the country should be concentrating on is fighting the virus.”
The government has said it will refuse the calls. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that extending the transition period would “add fuel to the fire” by creating extra uncertainty.
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