SNP Minister says Tories 'hell bent' on no-deal Brexit

The Conservatives in Westminster are "forfeiting the right to be taken seriously as negotiating partners" with the EU and devolved countries, Mike Russell has said.

Michael Russell.

The Scottish Brexit Secretary, who was speaking ahead of a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) (JMC EN), claims the way Scotland and the EU has been treated by the UK Government has had an impact on relations.

Mr Russell, who will chair the committee during its first ever meeting outside London, also claimed the UK Government is "hell bent" on leaving the European Union without a deal.

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Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, who is expected to accompany Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay to the meeting, said the UK Government wants a deal but requires "movement" from the EU and would be ready for Brexit on October 31 "whatever the circumstances".

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He said: "We are now just three weeks away from the catastrophe of a No-deal Brexit, which would do huge damage to jobs, communities and living standards across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

"In those circumstances, any responsible UK Government should be trying to avert such an outcome at all costs.

"Instead, we have a Prime Minister and an administration who appear hell-bent on driving over the cliff edge of No-deal at all and any cost."

The Brexit Secretary also hit out at the lack of engagement between Westminster and the devolved administrations across the UK.

He said: "This is a Tory government which is openly suggesting it could flout the law and which is reneging on commitments made both to the Scottish Government and EU partners.

"Tory ministers made a firm commitment to seek an agreed approach with the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations to negotiations with the EU. They also said meeting such as today's should oversee negotiations. These promises have been broken.

"The reality is that UK ministers have paid lip-service to any respect agenda towards the devolved governments, and gatherings like today's cannot paper over the cracks - there is a distinction between holding meetings and engaging seriously on the basis of equal partnership.

"We should not be having to spend a single penny on Brexit preparations - and we will take no lectures from Tory ministers when it comes to the planning and expense needed to mitigate the disaster they are perpetrating."

The committee comes after Mr Russell revealed the Scottish Government was not alerted to the publication of new Brexit proposals before they were released last week.

Mr Russell said the Scottish Government "has not been treated as a trusted partner.

He said: "In their behaviour towards EU neighbours, and towards devolved governments within the UK, the Tories are forfeiting the right to be taken seriously as negotiating partners.

"And if No-deal becomes a reality, it will be Boris Johnson and his colleagues who are entirely to blame."

Mr Gove said: "The UK Government wants a deal with the EU and we want to talk. This Government has made a fair and reasonable offer, and now it's time for the EU to show a willingness to compromise too.

"Any deal ahead of Brexit on October 31 will require movement from the EU, but we will be ready for Brexit on October 31 whatever the circumstances.

"We are supporting the devolved administrations to get ready for Brexit on October 31 and we have committed almost £140 million to the Scottish Government to fund their preparations.

"We continue to work constructively with all devolved administrations at every level to make the necessary preparations to ensure every part of the UK is ready to leave the EU on October 31."