Brexit: Mike Russell calls for May to rule out no deal '˜forever'

Scotland's Brexit secretary has called on the UK Government to rule out a no-deal exit from the European Union 'now and forever' as he revealed more detail of the preparations being made for such a scenario.

Scottish Brexit secretary Mike Russell
Scottish Brexit secretary Mike Russell

Mike Russell said there were a number of steps that must be taken in the wake of last night’s Commons defeat of Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, adding “the first part of the plan must be to rule out no deal”.

Until that happens, he said it was “regrettable” the Scottish Government would have to “go on with and intensify our work to prepare for that eventuality”.

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Mr Russell confirmed the Scottish Government was also now making decisions on matters such as stockpiling of medicines and food and emergency transportation.

He told how the Government was having talks with Westminster on the “timing and preparations for a potential no-deal outcome”.

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In addition, the Government’s resilience committee is meeting weekly, supported by a “rapid response team of officials which will grow as need requires”.

A public information campaign for the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is in the “final stage of development”, Mr Russell added.

He said: “All of this activity has become a significant focus of our resources and efforts, as it has to be for a responsible government. However, it remains something the UK could and should choose to remove as a risk today.”

Mr Russell said the vote in the Commons, which saw 432 MPs vote against Mrs May’s deal with 202 in favour, “was not just a defeat, it was a rout”.

In normal circumstances a defeat of this scale would force the resignation of the Prime Minister, he added.

“But instead the Prime Minister behaves as if this is all somebody else’s fault,” Mr Russell said.

He dismissed suggestions from some Conservatives the massive majority against the deal would compel European leaders to renegotiate the agreement as “self deluding mince”.

Mr Russell said: “There is stalemate in that crumbling palace beside the Thames.

“That stalemate, exacerbated by the delays the Prime Minister has been wholly responsible for, is costing business, EU nationals and all the rest of us very dear.”