MSPs to vote on Brexit deal before House of Commons

MSPs at Holyrood will get the chance to vote on Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal before MPs at the House of Commons.

Scotland’s Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell said that although the deal is “essentially dead” after it sparked a series of resignations from the UK Government, there would be a vote on it in the Scottish Parliament if the PM manages to get it through a European summit in Brussels on November 25.

While any vote in Holyrood would only be a symbolic one, Mr Russell said: “We must acknowledge that this deal is unacceptable to Scotland and her citizens.

“Brexit isn’t a better future, it is a backward step into a false and imagined past. That is now crystal clear and every word of this deal proves it to be true.”

In a statement to MSPs, he revealed the Scottish Government would “ensure that the Scottish Parliament has the right to give its own view on this deal”.

He said: “The Scottish Government will bring the deal – if agreed at the Brussels summit on November 25 – to this chamber for a vote before the vote takes place in the House of Commons.

“Our motion will be amendable – that is how a proper parliament should work.”

He made clear the proposed agreement is “unacceptable” to both the SNP and the Scottish Government.

He said it includes “single market alignment provisions which will only apply to Northern Ireland”, and he argued this would put Scotland at a disadvantage.

SNP ministers have been calling for Scotland to stay within Europe’s single market and customs union since December 2016, he recalled, adding that as it currently stands the deal would mean Northern Ireland alone would get a “better level of access” to the EU.

“We rejoice for Northern Ireland that this has been achieved but we cannot accept it be only for Northern Ireland,” Mr Russell said.

Highlighting a number of problems the SNP has found within the deal, he said while it maintained a “form of customs union” for the UK for a limited period of time, this is “nowhere near good enough”.

He added that the proposals also provide “grounds for the continuing betrayal of our fishing interests”, said it fails to guarantee key rights after Brexit and to “ignore the devolution settlement”.

Mr Russell continued: “The deal does refer to the British Antarctic Territory but makes no mention at all of Scotland.

“Westminster has treated and goes on treating Scotland with contempt.”

But Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins branded Mr Russell’s statement as a “cocktail of contrived grievance from someone who even two years on has never accommodated himself to the democratic will of the British people that we leave the European Union”.

The Tory MSP said: “I voted Remain too, but the difference between Mike Russell and me is that I respect the result of referendums and he does not.

“None of us knows whether yesterday’s draft withdrawal agreement will survive intact. Getting a deal through a fractious House of Commons was always going to be more difficult than getting a deal with Brussels. That task has not been made any easier by the sad and unnecessary Cabinet resignations we have witnessed this morning.”

Scottish Labour Brexit spokesman Neil Findlay said he would work to ensure the Scottish Government motion on the Brexit deal “gathers the widest possible parliamentary support”.

He said the withdrawal agreement had failed to meet Labour’s key Brexit tests, and his party “will not support this bad deal”.

He added: “We’ve always put Scotland first in this and this is not a deal that meets Scotland’s needs.”

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer stated his party “would of course be more than happy to work with the Labour Party and the Scottish Government to try and present as close as possible to a united voice from this Parliament on behalf of Scotland”.