David Mundell: 'I won't vote down a Tory government to stop no-deal Brexit'

Former Scottish Secretary David Mundell. Picture: PA
Former Scottish Secretary David Mundell. Picture: PA
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Former Scottish Secretary David Mundell has revealed he would not vote down a Conservative government to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Mundell has said that he would never vote against a Conservative government in a vote of no confidence, even if it was to prevent the UK crashing out of the European Union without a deal.

In one of his first public engagements since being sacked from the Cabinet by Boris Johnson, Mr Mundell was asked if he could ever accept a no-deal Brexit.

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In a swipe at his backbench colleagues who have said they could vote against their own government, he said: "I think we have to have a Brexit rather than no Brexit so I'm clear that is an important principle in honouring the 2016 referendum. I would never myself vote against a Conservative government in a vote of no confidence. As a Conservative MP that is not something you can ever reasonably do."

Mr Mundell, who was appearing at the Fringe on the Sea in North Berwick, admitted a general election was a "reasonable possibility" and also suggested a Conservative UK government would have to accept a mandate for a second independence referendum if the next Holyrood election was fought "explicitly" on those terms..

He said: "I think If the 2021 Scottish Parliament election is fought explicitly on the issue of another referendum and then there's a majority of nationalist parties, evidently you do have to listen to that.

"The 2016 election wasn't fought on that basis, it was a subset of the SNP manifesto, and my view is that the wording was ambiguous which allowed them to not major on independence, but then claim they had a mandate. if the 2021 election is fought on that explicit basis it's harder to push back on the idea that there isn't a mandate for it."

Asked if he believed Mr Johnson's election as Tory leader was increasing support for independence, he added: "We saw immediately after the 2016 EU referendum, there was a surge in support for independence but that wasn't sustained - things went back to where they were in 2014. Let's see a period of opinion polls deliver that same view before you could form that opinion that there has been a shift. Nicola Sturgeon used to say we wanted to see polls running at 60 per cent for a period of time for independence and we're not there."

Mr Mundell said he believed Boris Johnson was aware of the "threat to the union" and that there needed to be different messages across the UK in terms of policy - "I think he's open to that, and he needs to follow through. But it's as important here in Scotland as anywhere in the UK that Brexit is delivered. His number one priority is as important in Scotland, and I believe in keeping Scotland in the UK, as it is anywhere else in the UK."

Despite that, Mr Mundell went on to criticise the Labour Party and John McDonnell's comments this week that he would not block a second independence referendum and suggested all pro-union parties should work together at the next Holyrood elections.

"I was very disappointed in John McDonell's remarks that Labour would do a deal with SNP - it's clear Scottish Labour has been written off by London Labour

"Scottish Labour are in freefall and it's very unlikely they will have more than one MP after the next general election and it's clear McDonnell and Corbyn would do a deal with SNP and that would be to have another independence referendum."

He said he saw new Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson as an "ally" in terms of the union but that Tories would not stand aside for Liberal Democrats at a general election. But he added: "As we head into 2012 scot park elections which will ultimately be another ref on another ref then all unionist forces have to think about how they best organise themselves for that election."

Mr Mundell also reflected on the say he was sacked saying he knew when he got a message to meet Mr Johnson at his House of Commons office that "was a clue".

"It was a very amicable meeting, he's a personable guy, but the direction of travel was clear. He set out his thanks to me for all I've done, but that there was a but, and I knew what the but was going to be.

"He wanted to mould his own cabinet, wanted his own man in the job and I respect that decision."

He added: "I did give him some newspaper cuttings from Scotland about his taking over the job because the press reaction, even from papers in London which were favourable, was not, And because it's important to understand the scale of the task and the challenging political environment Scotland is.

"Ruth had spoken to him about it but he hadn't given her a commitment to appoint me, Ruth accepts it's the Prime Minister's decision who he puts in his Cabinet, obviously she was keen I should stay because we have a long-standing relationship and work well together, but she knows Alastair [Jack} well and will work with him but I know for both of us it was a disappointment."