The Scottish and UK Governments are set for a clash over a ‘no deal Brexit’ when they meet for talks this afternoon, with the SNP demanding the “disastrous” EU exit scenario is taken off the table while the government steps up pressure on Brussels and its own MPs.
Raising the stakes in negotiations with the EU, Theresa May’s cabinet will hold three hours of talks on preparations for a no-deal Brexit this morning, ahead of the publication of the next batch of papers offering advice to business and citizens.
Preparations for leaving the EU without a deal will also be raised in talks between the UK and devolved administrations, with the Cabinet Office minister David Lidington saying it was part of the government’s “sensible, precautionary approach”.
The focus on no deal follows yesterday’s hammer blow to Mrs May’s hopes of salvaging her Brexit plan from the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who used a major speech to warn that the Chequers proposal to keep the UK in a single market for goods was unworkable. In his final “State of the Union” address to MEPs in Strasbourg, Mr Juncker underlined the EU’s rejection of any plan that breaks up the key components of the single market, which guarantees freedom of movement for goods, services, people and capital.
The UK government says the only options for Brexit are Chequers or a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Juncker said: “We respect the British decision to leave our union... but we also ask the British government to understand that someone who leaves the Union cannot be in the same privileged position as a member state. If you leave the union, you are of course no longer part of our single market, and certainly not only in the parts of it you choose.”
Ahead of today’s talks in London, the Scottish Government’s Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell renewed calls for a no-deal exit to be ruled out.
“A no-deal Brexit is unthinkable but the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan is unworkable,” Mr Russell said. “The EU has been crystal clear that the key proposals on goods trade and customs in the Chequers plan will not be accepted.
“UK ministers can’t keep kicking the can down the road, hoping something turns up.”
The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said a no deal Brexit would be “disastrous”, but voiced suspicion that “the risks of a no-deal, perhaps deliberately by the UK government, are being overblown” in a bid to shore up Tory party unity.