The future of the union will not be jeopardised by a no-deal Brexit, according to the Prime Minister’s deputy David Lidington.
The Cabinet Office Minister said it remained in the best interests of all parts of the United Kingdom to secure a deal with the European Union based on the plan agreed at Chequers in July.
However, he insisted there are “powerful and persuasive” arguments in favour of keeping the union together even if negotiations end without agreement.
UK ministers have published a series of technical notices advising businesses and the public on how to prepare for such a scenario, although they have stressed that coming to a deal with European negotiators remains their top priority.
Scotland’s Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell has urged the UK Government to rule out the no-deal option, stating that such an outcome “would be deeply damaging and disruptive” to the UK and EU.
The Scottish Government is still pressing for an agreement which keeps the UK in the European single market and Customs Union.
Mr Lidington said: “I think that the merits of the union of the United Kingdom are still there and are still very powerful and persuasive regardless of the outcome to the European negotiations.
“The UK Government is absolutely determined to get a deal and a deal that works well for all parts of the United Kingdom, but I think if you look at this just in crude business and economic terms I think the value to Scotland of the single market of the United Kingdom, the ability to buy and sell in every part of the United Kingdom, is something that is of huge value to businesses and customers in Scotland.”
The minister also insisted Brexit discussions with the devolved administrations are “constructive and business-like”, with Scottish and Welsh ministers given input into the technical notices.
Scottish ministers have previously expressed frustration over a lack of involvement in the process, with Mr Russell stating their own preparations for all exit possibilities are “constrained by the lack of clarity on the direction of negotiations with the EU”, and “at the mercy of the UK Government” in terms of reserved areas such as aviation and energy.
Mr Lidington said: “We’ve taken very careful steps to try and identify those areas of no-deal planning where devolved competency is involved.”
He said that in devolved areas such as agricultural policy, the technical notices “will actually flag ... this is the responsibility of the Scottish Government, and the Scottish Government is setting out how it proposes to deal with this area of policy in the future”.
“The texts of the TNs certainly went to the devolved governments for comment and in the case of certain technical notices they were amended by us as a result of comments from either Scotland or Wales,” he added.
“There were some which, when I saw in draft, I said, ‘hang on, you’ve not given enough thought to the fact there is devolved competence here, that needs to be spelled out’.
“I’ll accept that there needs to be continuing awareness in Whitehall about the fact that we are operating in a constitution where significant areas of policy delivery are devolved in both Scotland and Wales, and that departments needs to be alive to that in their drafting and in their consultation processes.”