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Scottish Government says no deal Brexit is now ‘most likely’ outcome

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Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon listens as Michael Russell (MSP) Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe speaks during the Scottish Parliament debate on the triggering of article 50 in the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne
Scotland’s
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon listens as Michael Russell (MSP)
Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe speaks
during the Scottish Parliament debate on the triggering of
article 50 in the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament in
Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain, February 7,
2017.

Reuters / Russell
Cheyne


  • Exclusive: Scotland’s Brexit minister tells Business
    Insider that the UK appears likely to leave the EU without a
    deal.
  • Michael Russell MSP said that Theresa May faces the
    choice of leaving without a deal or pushing a deal through
    parliament with votes from opposition parties, which would risk
    splitting the Conservative party in two.
  • He said: “That’s the choice [May] has. She either
    doesn’t get a deal because she won’t move, or she cuts her
    party in half — or cuts a substantial part of her party off
    from her — and she tries to get a deal through with the support
    of the opposition parties.”

LONDON — A no deal Brexit is now the most likely outcome of
Theresa May’s negotiations with Brussels, Scotland’s minister
responsible for Brexit has told Business Insider.

“The issue now is how we avoid a no deal Brexit, but it does
appear to be the most likely outcome,” Michael Russell,
Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and
Constitutional Relations, and whose ministerial brief includes
Scotland’s Brexit preparations, told BI in an interview this
week.

“Where we are now boils down to an inability to find a way both
to have the backstop and to have an agreement which will get the
support of the Tory party and the government,” he said.

“That appears to be where the impasse is. So far, no form of
words has been found to bridge that gap and indeed the prime
minister’s proposals […] simply rehash points that have been
rejected by the EU.”

Russell said that both Downing Street and the EU’s attempts to
“de-dramatise” the contentious Irish backstop are doomed to fail.
That would leave May with a choice between leaving the EU without
a deal or courting sufficient votes of opposition parties to push
through a deal without the support of Conservative and Democratic
Unionist Party MPs. 

Of those two options, Russell claimed, a no deal Brexit appears
more likely, because the alternative of accepting the EU’s
preferred backstop proposals would risk splitting the
Conservative party in two. It would also be opposed by the DUP,
the Northern Irish party whose votes she relies on for a working
parliamentary majority, he said.

That’s the choice Theresa May has. She either doesn’t get a deal
because she won’t move, or she cuts her party in half.

“The choice she has is pretty clear now,” Russell said.

“The choice is not to have a deal with the EU because she won’t
shift on the issue of the backstop, or to shift on the issue of
the backstop and accept that she will split the Conservative
party and lose the support of the DUP.”

He added: “Can she make that up with support from other parties?
That’s the choice she has. She either doesn’t get a deal because
she won’t move, or she cuts her party in half — or cuts a
substantial part of her party off from her — and she tries to get
a deal through with the support of the opposition parties,” he
said.

The SNP has vowed to vote against May’s Brexit deal in
Westminster unless it guarantees membership of the single market
and customs union, which remains highly unlikely given it would
breach the prime minister’s strict red lines and provoke outrage
among Tory MPs. However, Downing Street has in recent weeks
started to make overtures to moderate Labour MPs in the hope they
could be forced to support her deal if the alternative is no
deal.

All roads lead to the backstop


Michael Russell SNP
Michael Russell, MSP for
Argyll and Bute

REUTERS/Russell
Cheyne


The Irish backstop, an insurance policy designed to avoid a hard
border on the island of Ireland, has emerged as the biggest
barrier to the UK and EU striking an exit deal in Brussels. The
EU’s proposed backstop would effectively keep Northern Ireland
within the EU single market and customs union for an infinite
amount of time.

You can smooth the backstop so it doesn’t appear to be important.
But there remains a gap and I don’t think there are words that
can taper over it.

But this backstop measure would also create the need for new
checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, which the
prime minister and many of her Tory colleagues have vowed to
oppose because on the grounds it would risk undermining the
integrity of the UK.

Attempts by negotiators in recent weeks to find a middle ground,
or to dress up the backstop differently so it appears more
palatable to Tory MPs, have failed, with May publicly doubling
down on her opposition to the backstop as a means of placating
restless Conservative MPs. But May will be unable to bridge the
gap between her public opposition to a backstop and the EU’s
insistence on a backstop forming part of a divorce deal, Russell
said.

“There’s a lot of discussion going on about whether there are
words that can taper over this gap.

“You can smooth the backstop so it doesn’t appear to be
important. But there remains a gap and I don’t think there are
words that can taper over it. The backstop either comes into
place or it doesn’t.”

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