A separate Scotland Brexit deal is '˜not realistic' plan

Scotland cannot have a separate Brexit deal from the rest of the United Kingdom, the Chancellor has said.

Friday, 2nd December 2016, 7:07 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 3:27 pm
Chancellor Philip Hammond during a visit to Standard Life House, Edinburgh. Picture; Jane Barlow

Philip Hammond said special arrangements for Scotland on trading and immigration are “not a realistic prospect”, ahead of a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh.

Ms Sturgeon is due to publish options aimed at protecting Scotland’s place in Europe in the next few weeks, focusing on keeping the country in the single market even if the UK leaves it.

Asked about a separate deal, Mr Hammond said: “Honestly I think this is not a realistic prospect. The European Union is clear it will negotiate a deal with the United Kingdom, the member state. You only need to think about it for moments to realise a separate negotiation deal for any part of the UK would be impractical.”

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He called for those opposed to Brexit to “stop clutching at straws” and to recognise the will of the people, arguing the decision to leave the EU is a UK issue.

Ms Sturgeon has said the Scottish Government is considering the options of the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area to keep Scotland in the single market. Scottish Brexit Minister Michael Russell says such options could provide an alternative route for Scotland, should the UK Government opt for a “hard Brexit” outside of the European trade bloc.

Meanwhile, the Lord Advocate is to argue it would be unlawful for the Brexit process to be triggered without consent from Holyrood as part of a legal challenge at the Supreme Court in London.

Mr Hammond warned a a separate deal for Scotland could be a disadvantage to the country because the UK market is “four times more important” than the European single market.

“I know Scotland, like the rest of the UK, has important trading relationships with the EU, but Scotland’s most important trading relationship is the trading relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom,” he said.

“And it is not at all clear how being outside of the UK’s arrangements with the EU could in anyway advantage Scotland. I would suggest that would be a disadvantage to Scotland.”

Asked about the prospect of consent being required from Holyrood, Mr Hammond said: “I am not going to speculate on issues before the court.

“But what I will say is I want to work closely with the Scottish Government and the other devolved administrations to make sure we approach these negotiations in a way that secures the best possible deal for all parts of the United Kingdom.

“I look forward to us moving on from this slightly backward looking, clutching at straws, trying to resist the will of the people, to embracing it, recognising it is going to happen and committing to work together to make sure it’s done in a way most supportive of the economy.”