Scottish Brexit minister demands talks start immediately

Scotland's minister in charge of Brexit negotiations has called for talks with the UK Government to begin immediately, and reiterated his commitment to keeping the UK in the European single market.

Michael Russell: Single market needs to be at table. Picture: Scottish Government
Michael Russell: Single market needs to be at table. Picture: Scottish Government

Michael Russell, appointed last month to press Scotland’s case with UK ministers, said remaining in the single market was “the most sensible and beneficial position”, adding: “That needs us to be at the table. It needs the discussions to start now.”

Mr Russell’s comments were echoed in a report by a committee of MSPs, which said maintaining Scotland’s access to the European single market should be a key priority for Holyrood ministers in any talks with the UK Government.

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Members of the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee have published an initial report on the impact leaving the European Union (EU) will have.

The MSPs heard concerns about the potential loss of access to the single market and whether membership of alternative organisations, such as the European Free Trade Association or the European Economic Area, could curb the damage.

Early evidence highlighted the “importance of access to the single market (both for services and goods), and the lack of tariff and non-tariff barriers (such as licensing)”. Another key issue to be considered is how EU funding for agriculture and fisheries can be replaced.

Committee convener Joan McAlpine said: “It is clear from the initial evidence that access to the single market is the preference of most organisations we spoke to - meaning free movement of goods, services, people and capital.”

Deputy convener Lewis Macdonald also called for Scottish ministers to prioritise the rights of EU citizens living in Scotland.