PLANES between the UK and the EU could be grounded by the end of the year because of “one of the biggest self inflicted acts of lunacy in British history”.

In a briefing for Scottish journalists in Brussels this week, high-ranking officials who are close to the negotiations warned of the scale of getting all agreements on the future relationship between Europe and Britain in place before December 31.

They said the tightness of this timetable might lead to negotiators being forced to prioritise some areas over others.

Last week, the Government’s Brexit bill was passed by Parliament, and signed off by the European Commission. That means we are set to leave the EU at 11pm GMT on Friday. Talks over the future relationship between London and Brussels will begin later next month. While we will remain in the EU’s single market and customs union until the end of the year, we will be out of all the decision-making bodies.

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The UK Government must decide by July 1 if it wants to extend the transition period. The terms of the withdrawal agreement allow for another two years to be added on.

However, Boris Johnson has insisted that Brexit talks cannot bleed into 2022, insisting that the 11 months between now and the end of the year is “ample” time to do a deal.

An EU official told The Sunday National this may not be possible: “At some point a decision might have to be taken about what we go ahead with before the end of the year and what continues beyond the end of the year,” he said. “And there are consequences to those decisions. The consequences are greater in some sectors than others.

“If for example there is no agreement on aviation by the end of the year then aircraft are grounded. That is a simple consequence of there not being an agreement on aviation rules.

“Aircraft cannot fly between the UK and the EU.”

The SNP’s Foreign Office spokesman, Alyn Smith, said he was “bereft” and claimed the Tories still hadn’t appreciated the enormity and complexity of the negotiations.

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“I’m bereft that I have not stopped Brexit from happening, but the reality now is that from Friday next we will – as well as building the case for independence – all need to try and save the UK from itself.

“The Tory arbitrary imposition of an 11-month deadline to a complex process for the sake of a few headlines in the Daily Mail will go down as one of the biggest self inflicted acts of lunacy in British history.

“It is obvious to me that the talks have started badly and will go worse still. The penny has still not dropped with the Tories and when it does it will be harsh. Scotland has a choice to make. We don’t need to be dragged into this chaos against our will. Independence in Europe is the way out, swapping chaos and condescension from Boris Johnson for the solidarity of the EU.

“Brexit has implications for Scotland, independent or not, but where Ireland has been able to protect its interests by working with the other EU countries, the UK has thrown that solidarity away. Scotland doesn’t need to go along with it.”

The EU’s negotiating position will be adopted on February 25.