Chancellor rules out bespoke Brexit deal for Scotland

CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond has ruled out a separate Scottish deal on Brexit, pushing Nicola Sturgeon closer to holding a second independence referendum.

On a visit to Scotland, Mr Hammond said: “This is a United Kingdom issue and the will of the people of the United Kingdom was to leave. We’re clear that we can’t have a different deal or a different outcome for different parts of the United Kingdom.”

He added: “I look forward to us moving on from this slightly backward looking, clutching at straws, trying to resist the will of the people [attitude] to embracing it, recognising it’s going to happen and committing to work together to make sure it’s done in a way that is most supportive of the Uk economy and the Scottish economy.”

The comments, made shortly before the Chancellor met the First Minister at Holyrood, were the most definitive yet from a cabinet figure to suggest Ms Sturgeon’s plan is now doomed.

The First Minister will publish a Scottish Government proposal on how Scotland could remain part of the EU single market even if the rest of the UK left in a hard Brexit later this month.

She has confirmed ministers are looking at whether Scotland could join the European Economic Area alongside Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein, or the European Free Trade Association, which also includes Switzerland, in order to preserve single market membership.

She said earlier this week that independence remained firmly on the table if no such deal was possible.

However such an arrangement would require the re-writing of the rules of both organisations, as only sovereign states are currently allowed to join, not a “sub-state” like Scotland.

Any deal would also require the support of the UK government, as it would have to argue Scotland’s corner in the Brexit withdrawal negotiations at the expense of other demands.

But briefing the media at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University ahead of his meeting with Ms Sturgeon, the Chancellor dismissed the idea of a separate Scottish deal out of hand.

He 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.

“I think you have to only think about it for a few moments to realise that a separate immigration deal for any part of the United Kingdom would be impractical.

“I know Scotland, like the rest of the United Kingdom, has important trading relationships with the rest of the European Union but Scotland’s most important trading relationship is the trading relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom.

“That is four times more important to Scotland than its trading relationship with the rest of the European Union and it is not at all clear how being outside of the UK’s arrangements with the European Union could in anyway advantage Scotland.

“I would suggest that that would be a disadvantage overall to Scotland.”

Asked whether Holyrood should have a vote on triggering Article 50, he refused to comment ahead of next week’s government appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

He said he wanted to work closely with the Scottish and other devolved administrations to get the best overall deal from the Brexit negotiations, but added: “I look forward to us moving on from this slightly backward looking, clutching at straws, trying to resist the will of the people to embracing it, recognising it’s going to happen and committing to work together to make sure it’s done in a way that is most supportive of the Uk economy and the Scottish economy.

“This is a United Kingdom issue and the will of the people of the United Kingdom was to leave.

“We’re clear that we can’t have a different deal or a different outcome for different parts of the United Kingdom.

“We have to work together as a United Kingdom now to get the best possible deal with Europe, and then to make out way in the world as a United Kingdom to the benefit of all parts of that United Kingdom.

“That’s why we need to work together with the Scottish Government and others to make sure that we approach this negotiation in the most constructive way to get the best deal.”

Ms Chancellor also backed up Brexit Secretary David Davis, who earlier said the UK might be prepared to pay for a beneficial trade deal with the EU after Brexit.

Mr Hammond said his colleague was absolutely right to take a “flexible and open-minded” approach to negotiations in order to maximise the UK’s deal.

After the meeting with Ms Sturgeon, which was also attended by SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, the Scottish Government insisted Mr Hammond would consider its proposal on a Brexit deal.

A spokesperson for the First Minister said: “The Chancellor said he looked forward to hearing our proposals on Scotland’s place in Europe, and that they will be considered fully by the UK Government – in line with the specific undertaking given to the First Minister by the Prime Minister when they met in Edinburgh in July.

“Those proposals, which we will publish in the coming weeks, will be aimed at securing Scotland’s place in the single market, which is vital for jobs, investment and our overall economic wellbeing.”

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