Drakeford calls for Brexit delay due to coronavirus emergency
The First Minister Mark Drakeford has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for an extension to the Brexit transition period in order to be able to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
He said that due to the “extraordinary circumstances” the Prime Minister should “move urgently to pause the EU-UK negotiations”.
Under the circumstances it was implausible to stick to the current timeframe as they had no idea for how long they would be fighting the virus, he said.
“We simply cannot, combating Covid-19, do justice to the needs and interests of Wales in the negotiation process,” he says in the letter.
Ge also points to the likely economic impact of coronavirus and says that it would be unwise to “contemplate adding the kind of economic shock that would accompany any change in trading relationship with the EU”.
The negotiations could be resumed “in more normal and viable circumstances” once the pandemic is over, he says.
60 new cases have tested positive for Covid-19 in Wales since ysterday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 478, although the true number of cases is likely to be higher.
One further death of individuals who have tested positive for the virus has been reported by Public Health Wales, taking the number of deaths in Wales to 17.
Commenting on Mark Drakeford’s letter to the Prime Minister calling for a Brexit delay, South Wales Central AM, Andrew RT Davies said his time and energy should be spent tackling the COVID19 crisis and nothing else.
“Pushing the Prime Minister on Brexit at this juncture is both bizarre and inappropriate, particularly given he has a number of more pressing matters to deal with such as the health of the nation,” he said.
“At a time of a national emergency where thousands of people could die, I’m absolutely staggered that the Welsh Labour Government feels that this is a priority right now.
“The NHS and tackling this awful virus should be the focus for all governments with trade talks left for another day and once we’ve come through the other side. All attention should be directed at saving lives, not stopping Brexit.”
Mark Drakeford’s letter comes as Cardiff Airport, which is owned by the Welsh Government, faces a further cut in flights due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dutch carrier KLM today announced the suspension of flights into and from Cardiff Airport from March 29 to May 3. The airline is retrenching its services and focusing on fewer routes during the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, and the measure is one of a raft to deal with a significant downturn in airline travel.
Earlier this month operator FlyBe which also used the airport went into administration.
Russell George AM, the Conservative Shadow Transport Minister, reacted to the news saying: “Cardiff Airport has been struggling in recent months, and this blow from KLM – which is cutting around 90 percent of its flights – is clearly going to have an effect.
“Airport management had said – before this pandemic began to have a real impact on the sector – that Cardiff was ‘… in a stronger position’ because of its business growth and diversification over the past few years.
“However, this storm will be particularly difficult for the airport to ride out, and I hope the earlier optimism of its management – which had said the airport is in a ‘strong position to bounce back when the recovery comes’ – will be well-founded.”