Mike Russell: Focus in Scotland must shift to retaining single market access when UK leaves

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 19 January 2017 in News

Speaking after Joint Ministerial Committee meeting, Russell said it was “absolutely crucial” Scotland avoids a so-called hard Brexit to avoid “economic catastrophe”

Scottish Brexit minister Mike Russell has warned it is time to accept the UK will exit the EU single market, and that focus must now shift to finding a means for Scotland to retain access when the rest of the UK leaves.

Speaking after meeting with representatives from the UK, Northern Irish and Welsh Governments through the Joint Ministerial Committee on Brexit, Russell said it was “absolutely crucial” Scotland avoids a so-called hard Brexit to avoid “economic catastrophe”.

The Scottish Government’s Brexit strategy, Scotland’s place in Europe, argues for the UK to remain in the single market, while outlining options for Scotland to stay in the trade area if the UK pursues a hard Brexit.


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But in outlining 12 objectives for the Brexit negotiations, Theresa May ruled out continued single market membership, while setting out plans to end freedom of movement and leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Writing in the Times ahead of the JMC meeting, May said she welcomed the Scottish Government’s Brexit paper.

She said: “Today we shall seek to understand more about its proposals and press on with sharing information and views, and we will continue to do so in a series of further meetings before our formal negotiations with the EU begin.”

But Russell questioned the PM’s decision to rule out continued access to the single market, days before meeting with administrations from across the UK.

He said: “We need to see clear evidence from the UK government that they will take forward the objective of keeping Scotland in the single market even if the rest of the UK leaves, and time is running out for them to do so.

"There was agreement in the meeting today to undertake further detailed work on that objective and I look forward to that process.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Prime Minister chose to disregard the process and make a significant announcement about her position two days before the JMC even considered our paper. It is now clear that single market membership for the whole of the UK is no longer an option and this is hugely disappointing.

“However, there are other options set out in our paper Scotland’s Place in Europe and our focus now is to ensure the UK Government takes seriously our objective of keeping Scotland in the European Single Market.

“They need to demonstrate that this is the case because the clock is ticking. The views and economic interests of the people of Scotland cannot be disregarded and brushed aside.”

The head of the Norwegian parliament’s EFTA and EEA delegation rejected Scottish Government plans to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and European Economic Area (EEA) even if Britain quits it, saying the plan would be impossible unless Scotland voted for independence.

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