THE Tories refusal to request an extension to Brexit has been branded “reckless in the extreme” as a new survey shows most Scots are in favour of a delay to the transition period.

Just over two-thirds – 64% – of people in Scotland believe the UK Government should seek an extension to focus on the pandemic, compared to 54% across the UK, according to an Ipsos Mori poll.

The research was carried out by a health charity which has warned a No-Deal Brexit will place huge pressures on the health and social care sector at a time when services will still be struggling as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove last week rejected calls from the first ministers of Scotland and Wales to request a longer Brexit transition period and allow negotiations to continue with the EU.

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In a joint letter Nicola Surgeon and Mark Drakeford warned “fundamental issues” still remained after the latest round of talks and the UK is facing at best a “bare bones” trade deal in place or a No-Deal by the end of the year.

The EU has also said it is open to an extension request, but on Friday Gove said he had officially given notice to EU negotiators that the UK Government will not seek to amend the December 31 deadline.

The new poll, carried out on behalf of charity the Health Foundation, found support for a Brexit extension rose to 65% across the UK when people received information on how medicines may be affected in the event of No-Deal with the EU.

Overall 95% of those surveyed said they wanted the UK to work closely with the EU during the Covid-19 crisis.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive at the Health Foundation, said: “This winter a No-Deal Brexit could exacerbate already acute shortages in the NHS and social care workforce and create new avoidable shortages of medicines and vital supplies.

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“This would come at the same time as the health service is facing significant pressures from seasonal flu, supporting people recovering from Covid-19, tackling the large backlog of patients who didn’t receive care during lockdown, and potentially coping with another wave of infection from the coronavirus.

“This would be a vicious, and avoidable, combination of risks.”

She added: “The public understandably prefer protection from risks that can be anticipated and avoided. This research suggests the public clearly prioritise the management of the coronavirus pandemic, and collaboration with the EU.”

It was also reported yesterday that a team of Cabinet ministers tasked with protecting the UK from a pandemic was scrapped six months before the Covid outbreak.

The Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingency Committee was mothballed by former Prime Minister Theresa May so ministers and officials could focus on Brexit – before being completely abolished by Boris Johnson.

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Dr Philippa Whitford MP, SNP Westminster Europe spokesperson, warned of the impact of a No-Deal Brexit on top of the pandemic.

She said: “With businesses struggling to survive the coronavirus crisis, they simply do not have the capacity to prepare for the sudden introduction of customs bureaucracy and possibly even tariffs.

“The Tories’ move to push ahead with a catastrophic No-deal Brexit at the end of the year, even though a transition extension is on offer, is reckless in the extreme.”

Whitford added: “The revelation that Boris Johnson scrapped a pandemic preparedness committee, to focus on Brexit instead, just shows how the Tories put their isolationist ideology ahead of everything else; including people’s lives.”

Gove’s statement confirming the UK will not seek an extension was made during a meeting of the EU Joint Committee.

He tweeted: “I formally confirmed the UK will not extend the transition period and the moment for extension has now passed. On 1 January 2021 we will take back control and regain our political and economic independence.”

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UK sources were keen to depict the meeting as the last formal opportunity to request an extension, as it was the final scheduled meeting of the joint committee before the July 1 deadline to make such a request. However both sides can agree to hold another meeting, where under the Withdrawal Agreement a delay could be asked for.

Scottish and Welsh ministers decided not to take part in a Brexit conference call on Friday with the UK Government in protest at its actions, saying the views of devolved governments were being dismissed and they would write to Gove seeking a “complete reboot” of the talks.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have recently set out detailed analysis of the devastating costs to Scotland if the UK Government takes the reckless step of leaving the transition period without a deal at the end of the year.

“The Scottish and Welsh Governments will be writing to the UK Government calling for an urgent reboot of the Brexit talks.”