The UK Government has been accused of a “huge dereliction of duty” after it refused to pause Brexit talks in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Scottish Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said: “Bluntly, is the UK Government now expecting the Scottish Government to divert resources from tackling Covid-19 to carry out the necessary, extensive work that would be involved [in Brexit]?

“If that extension is not sought then UK ministers are clearly gearing up to thrust a No-Deal on the people of these islands when they are already reeling from the worst crisis in many generations.

“That would be a huge dereliction of duty to all citizens of the UK.”

It follows a reply from UK ministers to a previous request from Russell to halt the Brexit talks.

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In his reply, Michael Gove said the UK Government has “no intention” of seeking an extension to the transition period, which is due to come to an end in less than nine months’ time. Russell has now written to Gove again, making clear that the Tory position is not tenable, and posing key questions for UK ministers.

Russell said: “This demonstrates an alarming failure at the heart of the UK Government to grasp the huge economic damage this will do at a time when the economy is already facing an unprecedented shock as a result of coronavirus.

“Some key questions now need answered: How can the UK Government be fully focused on tackling coronavirus if it is deploying significant resources and attention on Brexit negotiations, and how can there be any effective Parliamentary scrutiny of the negotiations?”

“In his letter, Mr Gove has claimed there is work underway to ensure the devolved administrations are engaged in key stages of the negotiations.

“The reality is that not only has there been no meaningful discussion of issues with [us] for almost two months.”

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