April 20 (UPI) -- The Scottish government on Monday called for a two-year extension for the British transition away from the European Union during the coronavirus pandemic.
When Britain formally departed the bloc at the end of January, it began a transition period that's scheduled to last until the end of this year. During that transition, British and EU negotiators must address a number of issues to be settled for the future relationship between the two, like trade. Britain is continuing to follow all EU rules in the meantime.
Monday, Scotland's Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said in statement that the global health crisis has made it "essential" for the British government to seek an extension "to avoid further damage to jobs, well-being and the economy."
"Instead of its reckless decision to pursue a hard Brexit in the middle of this unprecedented crisis, the U.K. government should today be asking the EU for the maximum two-year extension to the transition period," Russell said.
"The benefits of coordinated European action have never been clearer.'
Russell called for an urgent videoconferencing with the other U.K. nations of England, Wales and Northern Ireland to seek the extension.
Most Scotland residents voted against leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum, and Scottish officials warned that a "no-deal Brexit" -- leaving without a negotiated trade agreement in place -- would result in economic damage.
"The Scottish economy cannot afford the double hit of COVID-19 and the growing likelihood of a 'no deal', or at best a hard Brexit deal, in less than nine months' time," Russell said.
Britain has so far reported more than 120,000 cases and 16,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Monday, Prince Phillip issued a rare statement to praise British doctors, nurses and other front-line workers for their efforts during the crisis.
The 98-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth, speaking on behalf of "those of us who remain safe and at home," thanked all "key workers who ensure the infrastructure of our life continues; the staff and volunteers working on food production and distribution, those keeping postal and delivery services going, and those ensuring the rubbish continues to be collected."