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SNP might want no-deal Brexit, claims Michael Gove

The UK Cabinet minister appeared via video link from Westminster at the Finance and Constitution Committee at Holyrood.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster agreed that the SNP may want to see a no-deal Brexit (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster agreed that the SNP may want to see a no-deal Brexit (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

By Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter

Michael Gove has claimed the refusal of the SNP to back the new Brexit Bill could suggest they want the UK leave the EU without a deal.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in response to Scottish Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins, said he can understand why people accuse the SNP of quietly supporting no-deal.

Some opposition politicians have claimed the SNP would benefit from the economic downturn predicted following a no-deal exit, with a possible increase in support for Scottish independence, something the party has denied.

Mr Gove made the comments while speaking via video link to the Finance and Constitution Committee at the Scottish Parliament on Monday.

Given that this deal provides for so many things that the SNP has rightly demanded, do you understand why the SNP continue to vote against it? Is it because they want a no-deal Brexit? Adam Tomkins MSP

Mr Tomkins asked: “It does raise the question of why all SNP MPs voted against this deal and its predecessor deal on four occasions.

“(Scottish Brexit Secretary) Mr Russell called for a transition period, this deal provides for that.

“Mr Russell also called for no hard border on the island of Ireland and this deal avoids it.

“Nicola Sturgeon called for a guarantee on EU citizens’ rights and this deal provides for it.

“Given that this deal provides for so many things that the SNP has rightly demanded, do you understand why the SNP continue to vote against it?

“Is it because they want a no-deal Brexit?”

Mr Gove said: “I certainly don’t want a no-deal outcome. The best means of avoiding a no-deal outcome is to vote for this deal.

“The failure of SNP MPs in the House of Commons to vote for this deal so far would allow a lot of people to draw the same conclusions as you have Professor Tomkins, yes.”

Speaking after the meeting, SNP MSP Tom Arthur branded the claims “self-evidently ludicrous”.

He said: “The SNP has been the strongest advocate for remaining in the EU – working round the clock to stop Brexit and protect the interests of the Scottish people, who voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU.”

In September, Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser wrote in The Scotsman that the SNP “want to make the resulting economic damage worse in the hope of boosting support for independence”.

Later in the session, Mr Arthur asked Mr Gove if businesses in Northern Ireland would be better able to access the EU single market than Scottish businesses.

Mr Gove simply responded “yes”.

When asked by Mr Arthur if this would put Scottish businesses at a “competitive disadvantage”, Mr Gove said: “It need not.

“If we secure the free trade agreement we are looking to secure, then it should be the case that there will be no quotas, no tariffs, no quantitative restriction, no extra friction and that would allow businesses in Scotland, Wales and England to access the EU market.”

Mr Gove said the “specific factors” in Northern Ireland meant the agreement had to ensure there was no infrastructure along its border with the Republic of Ireland.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Arthur said: “Michael Gove incredibly admitted that the proposed deal puts Scotland at a competitive disadvantage, as the only part of the UK getting a raw deal.”

PA

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