Brexit: SNP ‘won’t support a deal’ says Michael Russell
Michael Russell provoked a furious response from Downing Street and Scottish opposition parties who dismissed Mr Russell and the SNP as “loonies”. Speaking in Holyrood earlier, Scotland’s Brexit Secretary also claimed any Brexit deal made by the UK Government would be “damaging and harmful”.
Mr Russell said: “It is utterly incredible that some 1,629 days since the European Union referendum, I should rise to make a statement on the final details of withdrawal with still no clarity about how the United Kingdom will trade with the EU in just 23 days’ time.
“The one thing that we do know, however, is that the choice remains — as has been the case since the extremists finally took over the Tory Party and the UK Government — between no deal and a low deal, either of which will be damaging and harmful.”
Mr Russell argued Scotland did not vote to leave the EU and claimed the issue of rejoining as an independent member state is “very live.
A Downing Street source said Mr Russell’s comments reflected the “abysmal” position the SNP had left Scotland in.
A new Brexit row erupted tonight
Mr Russell and the SNP have been branded as ”loonies” by opponents
The source added: “The Prime Minister has made clear the SNP’s record in Scotland is abysmal and these comments simply reflect that.
“It shows division rather than wanting to work with the UK government.
“It is clear there are some loonies in the party when it comes to Brexit.”
Meanwhile Scottish Conservative Brexit and Constitution spokesperson Dean Lockhart MSP accused the SNP of being an “anti-trade” party.
Boris Johnson will travel to Brussels tomorrow to continue talks with von der Leyen
Questioning the Secretary’s remarks, Mr Lockhart claimed the SNP had failed to support “every trade deal over the past 15 years” which included recent free-trade agreements with Canada, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
He continued: “Will he explain why the SNP failed to support every trade deal over the past 15 years?
“Is it because the reality is that the SNP is, deep down, an anti-trade party? Is that the real reason.”
But Mr Russell denied Mr Lockhart’s claims, arguing SNP were “pro-Scotland” adding: “If we had a Conservative Party that was pro-Scotland we would not be in this mess.”
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A Brexit deal will still have to go through several stages
Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats also criticised the SNP cabinet member for mentioning independence in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as Mr Russell
Mr Rennie said: “We were told that Brexit was over, but the pain just goes on and on.
“As the First Minister — sorry, the cabinet secretary — raised independence, I say gently to him that I cannot imagine that breaking from the United Kingdom would be any less painful than this.”
It comes as Boris Johnson is set to travel to Brussels tomorrow in a bid to reach a breakthrough on a post-Brexit trade deal over dinner with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie
Talks remain deadlocked on fishing rights, the “level playing field” measures aimed at preventing the UK undercutting the EU on standards and state subsidies, and the way that any deal would be governed.
The olive branch from the EU Commission President came after the two sides reached an agreement on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement divorce deal as time rapidly runs out to the end of the transition period on December 31st.
The divorce deal, which is separate to the trade talks, consists of an agreement on border checks and trading rules for Northern Ireland.
Whitehall sources close to the negotiations told Express.co.uk the UK side were “relieved” of the deal signed between Michael Gove and EU Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove
One official told this publication: “There is some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Mr Gove and Mr Sefcovic said in a statement that “an agreement in principle” had been reached on all issues.
As part of this, the UK Government will withdraw the controversial clauses of the UK internal market bill which would breach international law.
Mr Sefcovic added he hoped the agreement would provide “positive momentum” for the trade talks, although he acknowledged the two sides were still “very far apart”.
The Prime Minister warned trade talks with the Bloc were proving “very tricky” making clear it was “very, very difficult” to make progress.
Mr Johnson hoped the “power of sweet reason” would triumph but Brussels had to accept there were limits to what terms the UK would be prepared to accept.