Scottish Secretary David Mundell has warned that a “chaotic Brexit” could boost support for Scottish independence.
The UK cabinet minister urged the SNP and other opposition parties to get behind Theresa May’s Chequers Deal as the best alternative to a No Deal scenario as he appeared before MSPs at Holyrood.
But he came under fire from Nationalist MSPs who told him Mrs May’s plan for the UK’s departure fro the EU, which would include a “common rulebook” for all goods with the EU and a “combined customs territory” at borders, was a “dead duck.”.
An poll at the weekend suggested that Brexit would lead to a majority of Scots voting for independence and Mr Mundell accepted this was a concern.
“I think we always have to alive to the fact that it’s the driving purpose of the SNP to take forward an independence argument and they’re going to look to do that in any circumstance,” he told ITV’s Representing Border.
“A chaotic Brexit in my view might assist them to do that, so therefore we should not aspire to achieve that – for a whole host of other reasons – there’s economic reasons – but chaos and turbulence is exactly the sorts of environment in which the Nationalists would see that they could take advantage of.”
Mr Mundell’s defence of the Chequers deal came in response to reports that EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has dismissed the deal as “dead.”
It has also deepened Conservative splits on the issue with Eurosceptics like Jacob Rees Mogg concerned that it gives away too much.
Nationalist MSP Willie Coffey criticised Mr Mundell’s position during an appearance before Holyrood’s Constitution committee yesterday.
“Mr Mundell, are you seriously asking us to believe that the Chequers proposal isn’t a dead duck – you can’t get it past your own party,” Mr Coffey said
But the Scottish Secretary insisted the Chequers deal is “still live and still on the table”, adding that a “no deal” scenario would not be good for Scotland.
“That’s why I don’t want to be in that position of a no deal and if we get to the point that Parliament gets the opportunity to vote for the Chequers deal or a no deal I will be absolutely in the column of those voting for Chequers and I would hope that the labour party and the SNP, if they genuinely don’t want a no deal, will be doing likewise.”