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This afternoon SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford openly welcomed Michel Barnier’s surprise letter to opposition leaders, which outlined the EU’s plan to extend the negotiating period for up to two more years. Responding to the letter, Mr Blackford thanked the European Commission’s Head of Task Force and urged Boris Johnson to abandon his commitment to the British people and extend talks beyond December 31.
Mr Blackford wrote on Twitter: “Thank you Michel Barnier for your letter today confirming the EU is open to a two-year extension to the Brexit transition period.
“Time is running out. Boris Johnson must put his responsibilities to jobs and the economy first – agree an extension to prevent another crisis.”
The desperate plea from the SNP chief was met with an angry response by many users on Twitter – who in no uncertain terms reminded Mr Blackford what 17.4 million people voted for.
One user said: “This is ant-democratic. It’s been four years since the UK voted to leave.”
A second responded by saying: “We’re out.”
A third told Mr Blackford: “We do NOT want any extension! Keep out of it.
“It’s MPs like yourself that kept casing problems in the UK parliament and dragging Brexit out for so long. Now we want it finished for good.”
A fourth simply said: “No extension, listen to the majority!”
A fifth wrote: “Sad pathetic wee man.”
In the letter to Westminster leaders of the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Green Party and Alliance Party, Mr Barnier said the EU “remain open” to an extension until 2022 but warned this would come at a financial cost to the UK.
The UK and the EU negotiating teams have just one round of talks to go in June before both sides must decide on any extension before the July 1 deadline – Downing Street has again reiterated a delay is not an option.
In the letter Mr Barnier said: “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 July 1, and must be accompanied by an agreement on a financial contribution by the United Kingdom.”
The Prime Minister has already knocked back any suggestion of a new timetable for talks and insisted the UK will honour the December 31 deadline.
Responding to Mr Barnier, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “No change to the government’s position.
“The transition period will end on December 31.”
Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost, said it was “firm policy” of the Government to honour the current timetable.
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In front on the Commons Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union, Mr Frost also insisted there remains a “big gap” in negotiations regarding the EU’s insistence on a level playing field with the UK on trade rules and regulations.
He said: “I think it’s fair to say that we have a fundamental disagreement at the moment on most aspects of the level playing field.
“There are one or two areas that are slightly less controversial and problematic but in most of the important areas, there’s a big gap.
“And he obviously is delivering the mandate he was given. Member states regard the level playing field as very important.
“I think, to recall, we are not saying that there can be no level playing field provisions, we’re simply saying that there must be provisions which are appropriate to a free trade agreement.”
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