Ruth Davidson has voiced her fears that Brexit could deliver an economic blow the UK may not fully recover from.
In an astonishing intervention by a senior Conservative casting doubt on whether Brexit will be a success, Ms Davidson criticised UK government ministers for failing to prepare the public for the uncertainty of difficult, drawn out talks with the EU.
The Scottish Conservative leader was a staunch campaigner to Remain in the EU during last year’s referendum.
Following the election of 13 Scottish Conservative MPs in June, she called for the government to soften its stance on EU talks and pursue an “open Brexit”, although she has not set out any detail on what kind of deal should would like to see.
In an interview with the New Statesman, Ms Davidson conceded Brexit “is going to happen” but said she was concerned there would be a short-term economic hit and “we don’t bounce back from it”.
She said: “I think one of the things the UK government didn’t do that they should have done was pitch-roll this: remind the British public that when it comes to European negotiations – and we’ve had several decades of them – we are told no until five past midnight and then suddenly a deal gets done in the wee small hours of the morning.
“I don’t think the country was prepared for this period that we’re currently in.
“People in a room talking and then walking out and up to a bank of microphones and saying entirely different things while standing next to each other is part of what negotiation is.”
Asked what her greatest concern was about Brexit, she replied: “My real fear is that if there’s a short-term economic hit, we don’t bounce back from it.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “What we are working hard on is making sure we deliver the smoothest possible Brexit that delivers certainty for business and we get a trade deal that works for Britain and the European Union, and we are confident of doing so.”
In the interview, Ms Davidson also hailed under-pressure Prime Minister Theresa May, saying: “She’s absolutely straight down the line.
“She’s not a game player. And the kind of clichés that you hear about her, about her believing in service and public duty, are absolutely true.”