David Mundell backs Scottish Tory MPs over 'hard Brexit' letter

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Scottish Secretary David Mundell has defended four fellow Scottish MPs over a letter calling on Theresa May to push ahead with a hard Brexit, in an apparent breach with policy set out by Ruth Davidson.

Three of the 12 back bench Scottish Conservative MPs signed the letter sent to Downing Street by the pro-Brexit European Research Group, which demanded that the UK have full regulatory freedom from the EU as of Brexit day.

Ross Thomson, the only Scottish Conservative MP who publicly backed Brexit during the 2016 EU referendum, said he also supported the letter signed by Alister Jack, Stephen Kerr and Colin Clark.

READ MORE: Scots Tory MPs sign letter calling for ‘clean break’ Brexit
By arguing for the freedom to discard EU regulations—the letter signed by 63 MPs in total—appears to contradict Ms Davidson’s calls for the UK to pursue “the largest amount of access” to the European single market.

Mr Mundell said: “I don’t characterise debate and discussion as a split. What’s happening is that we’re going through a process at the moment where the UK Government position is being determined, and it’s perfectly legitimate for people to express their views as that process unfolds.

“That’s what the job of backbench MPs is, it’s to have views and opinions and to express them, and my colleagues who expressed an opinion this week, they've all previously expressed an opinion.

“It’s not a surprise that my colleague Ross Thomson, who effectively led the Leave campaign in Scotland, is in favour of Brexit.”

Mr Mundell was also asked about the publication of leaked UK Government analysis showing that every available Brexit scenario would harm Scotland’s economy.

The Scottish Secretary had told a committee of MSPs in November that “there is not a Scottish specific analysis” of the economic impact of Brexit.

“In relation to the very specific questions that I’ve been asked, I’ve given a factual answer,” Mr Mundell said.

“Clearly, various types of analysis have been done. Some documents have been leaked, but they were not the complete picture and certainly the most recent leaked document didn’t reflect at all the Prime Minister's preferred outcome.

“I’ve never disputed there were challenges in terms Brexit, but I want and prefer to focus on the opportunities because I’m very clear that such opportunities exist.”

He added: “I don’t believe that it’s inevitable that there will be an economic downside to Brexit.

“It all depends on the nature of the agreement that we reach. The Prime Minister has been very clear and will set out further the nature of that agreement, but it is one that will allow us access with the minimum of barriers and tariffs to the single market, which is what businesses in Scotland say they want.”

READ MORE: Scottish Secretary criticised over ‘silence’ on Brexit papers