Borders MP David Mundell has threatened to resign over a European Union exit deal set to be signed off by the UK Government as soon as next week.
The Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson have both issued a threat to quit over compromises to that Brexit deal over the Irish border ibeing proposed in a bid to get it agreed.
UK prime minister Theresa May’s cabinet meets today, October 16, amid widespread disquiet among Conservatives and their allies in the Democratic Unionist Party about plans to keep Britain in the EU customs union and boost regulatory checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Downing Street has sought to calm speculation that the compromises will form the basis of a breakthrough on the UK’s Brexit withdrawal aMrs Maythe Prime Minister not to do a “dodgy deal” undermining Northern Ireland’s standing in the union.
A joint letter from Ms Davidson and Scottish Secretary Mr Mundell to Mrs May warns that the issue of special status in the EU single market for Northern Ireland would be a red line for both of them, it has emerged.
Under existing treaties including the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland already has separate regulatory regimes shared with the Republic of Ireland over matters including electricity and animal health.
However, the EU says that under a commitment set to agreed by Mrs May to prevent a hard border being created on the island of Ireland, the north would have to effectively remain within the single market.
Checks on goods travelling between the north and Britain would need to be enhanced, affecting all livestock and agricultural products, many of which come from Scotland.
“Having fought just four years ago to keep our country together, the integrity of our United Kingdom remains the single most important issue for us in these negotiations,” the letter from Ms Davidson and Mr Mundell states.
“Any deal that delivers a differentiated settlement for Northern Ireland beyond the differences that already exist on an all-Ireland basis – for example, agriculture – or can be brought under the provisions of the Belfast Agreement, would undermine the integrity of our UK internal market and this United Kingdom.
“We could not support any deal that creates a border of any kind in the Irish Sea and undermines the union or leads to Northern Ireland having a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK beyond what currently exists.”
As many as eight cabinet ministers are said to be considering their positions over plans to keep the UK in the customs union to ensure goods continue to be traded over the Irish land border whatever the future relationship between London and Brussels without a firm date for when that arrangement would end.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis has called for a cabinet mutiny, telling his former colleagues to “exert their collective authority” to stop unacceptable compromises on customs and Northern Ireland.
Scottish National Party deputy leader Keith Brown said: “It is telling that Davidson and Mundell have not threatened resignation to protect Scotland’s place in the customs union or single market – which is eight times bigger than the UK market alone.
“The Tories must stop pandering to the will of hard-line Brexiteers. Remaining in the single market and the customs union is essential for the economy, jobs and living standards, and it’s high time the Tories put that before their internal squabbles.”