THE Scottish Government is set to restart No-deal Brexit preparations, The National can reveal. There is now less than five weeks until the point of no return for requesting an extension to the transition period.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the Prime Minister has so far rejected any talk of delaying Brexit, giving negotiators in London and Brussels just six months to agree a deal.

Talks have been bad-tempered, and, according to reports, there has been little progress.

Yesterday, one EU source told the Guardian: “The demands of the UK Government at the moment are very unilateral. They want to keep the things that are suiting them, but give away things in our interest.”

Whitehall’s Brexit negotiators claim the EU are demanding the UK “give up our rights as an independent state”.

Scottish Government Constitution Secretary Michael Russell told The National: “The UK Government must, as a matter of urgency, seek an extension to the Brexit transition period to avoid either a No-deal, or a damaging basic trade deal, in seven months’ time.

“Leaving the transition period at the end of the year would be a devastating blow for the Scottish economy, which is already hit hard by the pandemic.

“I will be updating Holyrood on this issue next week but we must now start to revisit our no deal preparations, despite all the other priorities which we have, given that a No-deal or something almost as bad, is the most likely outcome. The situation is also being made worse because of the approach taken by the UK Government negotiators, who of course like Dominic Cummings report directly to the Prime Minister.”

READ MORE: Brexit: MSPs told EU will not pursue a deal ‘at all costs’

Dr Kirsty Hughes, from the Scottish Centre on European Relations, said: “We badly need an extension to the Brexit transition. Negotiations are going badly and even if a deal is reached in the autumn it will mean a hard Brexit with lots of new customs and regulatory procedures.

“We face a major and uncertain hit from Covid-19, including a likely second wave in the autumn. The idea that businesses, workers, NGOs, universities and more can all prepare for either No-deal Brexit or an as-yet-unknown trade deal while also adjusting to the huge and damaging change in wider economic conditions due to corona is absurd and ideological.

A UK Government spokeswoman said extending the transition period would prolong “the time when UK business does not know what its future trading arrangements will be or how to adapt to them. It is better to be clear now and minimise the uncertainty for businesses.”

She added: “Negotiations continue with the EU next week on the kind of trading relationship, and other forms of co-operation, we will have in future.”