Separate Brexit Deal For Scotland Not Realistic Prospect, Warns Philip Hammond

1 December 2016, 15:26

Brexit flags

Scotland cannot have a separate Brexit deal from the rest of the United Kingdom, the Chancellor has said.

Philip Hammond said special arrangements for Scotland on trading and immigration are ''not a realistic prospect'', ahead of a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh.

Ms Sturgeon is due to publish options aimed at protecting Scotland's place in Europe in the next few weeks, focusing on keeping the country in the single market even if the UK leaves it.

Asked about a separate deal, Mr Hammond said: ''Honestly I think this is not a realistic prospect.

''The European Union is clear it will negotiate a deal with the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom is the member state, and I think you only need to think about it for a few moments to realise that a separate negotiation deal for any part of the United Kingdom would be impractical.''

He called for those opposed to Brexit to ''stop clutching at straws'' and to recognise the will of the people, arguing that the decision to leave the European Union is a ''United Kingdom issue''.

Ms Sturgeon has previously said the Scottish Government is considering the options of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and European Economic Area (EEA) to keep Scotland in the single market.

Scottish Brexit Minister Michael Russell has said such options could provide an alternative route for Scotland, should the UK Government opt for a ''hard Brexit'' outside of the European trade bloc.

Meanwhile, the Lord Advocate is to argue that it would be unlawful for the Brexit process to be triggered without consent from Holyrood as part of a legal challenge at the Supreme Court in London.

Mr Hammond told reporters that a separate deal for Scotland could be a disadvantage to the country because the UK market is ''four times more important'' than the European single market.

''I know Scotland, like the rest of the UK, has important trading relationships with the EU, but Scotland's most important trading relationship is the trading relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom,'' he said.

''And it is not at all clear how being outside of the UK's arrangements with the EU could in anyway advantage Scotland. I would suggest that would be a disadvantage to Scotland.''

Asked about the prospect of consent being required from Holyrood, Mr Hammond said: ''I am not going to speculate on issues that are before the courts at the moment.

''But what I will say is this: I want to work closely with the Scottish Government and the other devolved administrations to make sure that we approach these negotiations in a way that secures the best possible deal for all parts of the United Kingdom, and I look forward to us moving on from this sort of slightly backward looking clutching at straws, trying to resist the will of the people, to embracing it, recognising that it is going to happen, and committing to work together to make sure it's done in a way that is most supportive of UK economy and Scottish economy.''

He added: ''This is a United Kingdom issue, and the will of the people of the United Kingdom was to leave.''

''We are clear that we can't have a different deal or different outcome for different parts of the United Kingdom.

''We have to work together as a United Kingdom to get the best possible deal from Europe and then to make our way in the world as a United Kingdom to the benefit of all parts of that United Kingdom.''