The SNP have challenged Theresa May over the future of the Scottish border, insisting that if Northern Ireland and the Republic are able to continue “frictionless” trade after Brexit, then Scotland should as well even if it remains in the EU single market.
Unionists have warned against allowing Scotland to have different Brexit terms from the rest of the UK, saying it would create a ‘hard border’ with England, including customs and immigration checks.
But nationalists have leapt on comments by Conservative MP Dominic Raab, who said that a hard border would be “impossible to enforce”.
Scottish Government ministers insist their proposal to keep Scotland in the single market while the rest of the UK leaves will not result in new trade or travel barriers along the border.
Speaking on the BBC’s Hard Talk programme on Tuesday night, Mr Raab, a backbencher who sits on the Commons committee for Exiting the EU, said in relation to a hard border: “With Scotland it would be I think wrong as a matter of principle and impossible to enforce.
He said: “In terms of Ireland, we have got the Common Travel Area. Various arrangements existed even before we were members of the EC, as it then was.
“And of course there’s going to be strong bilateral relations to make sure we don’t undermine taking back control of immigration policy but without putting up a hard border.
“We will have to have sensible, mutual arrangements which respect both sides of that debate.
“Now we had that debate before we entered the EU so I don’t think it’s beyond the wit of man or woman to come up with sensible arrangements but we’re not going to erect a hard border.
“We said that during the referendum campaign, the government says it now.
But Mr Raab added: “Equally, frankly some of the stuff coming from the SNP is, I don’t think, very credible.”
At Prime Minister’s questions, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson welcomed the government’s aim of keeping the Irish border open, and asked Mrs May to “give a commitment to work with the Irish Government and a commitment to work with the Scottish Government to deliver all those things—or will we just have to get on with it ourselves?”
Mrs May replied: “We are very clear that we want to see a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but I am also clear that one of the objectives of our negotiation is to see as frictionless a border as possible between the UK and the rest of the European Union.
“Of course, if he is so worried about having a frictionless border between Scotland and countries in the EU, he should not want to take Scotland out of the EU by wanting to see it independent.”
Speaking after PMQs, Mr Robertson said: “The Prime Minister has helpfully explained it’s perfectly possible for parts of these islands to be in the single market, without hard borders, with free movement of people and at the same time protect and enhance trade with one another.
“Theresa May should have taken the opportunity to explain how she will deliver these sensible and important outcomes.”