Mundell: Brexit deal is better than no deal

David Mundell
David Mundell

Despite vowing to quit his job as Scottish Secretary if Northern Ireland was granted any special deal over Brexit in October, David Mundell is defiantly staying in place and is planning on supporting the draft EU withdrawal agreement which does exactly that.

He is doing so, he says, because he believes that to do anything else would bring about a no-deal Brexit, which he says would be “catastrophic for Scotland”.

Mr Mundell, who is MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, also branded fellow cabinet member Dominic Raab a “carpetbagger” for resigning his post last week, saying Mr Raab was more interested in “manoeuvring and leadership” than in the integrity of the UK.

The deal on the table includes plans for a backstop in order that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the neighbouring Republic of Ireland ... which would also see Nothern Ireland still being linked to EU rules.

In an interview on BBC Radio Scotland’s Reporting Scotland programme this morning, Mr Mundell said: “I’m supporting the deal because I believe a no-deal outcome will be catastrophic for Scotland.

“I believe it would be a fundamental threat to the continuation of the United Kingdom.

“In the round, we have to weigh up all the issues – these will be difficult and complex judgements – but I am not prepared to countenance a no-deal outcome for Scotland.”

He added: “Everybody is clear it’s not a perfect deal, but I don’t believe it’s as bad a deal as is characterised.

“It contains many positive elements in relation to the rights of EU citizens.

“Going forward, it contains the hugely important prospect of Scottish businesses being able to trade in the EU without tariffs and without quotas ... that’s the number one thing that businesses have said they want.

“I believe Scotland would be considerably worse off if there was a no-deal scenario ... it would be catastrophic.”

Interviewer Gary Robertson asked him about the letter he co-penned with Scottish Tories leader Ruth Davidson in October, in which he said he would resign if the deal delivered a “differentiated settlement for Northern Ireland that would undermine the integrity of the UK internal markets and the United Kingdom”.

A slightly flustered-sounding Mr Mundell said: “That is a selective quote from the letter, because what it also says, in the same paragraph ‘beyond what already exists because of the nature of all-Ireland ... arrangements that exist, for example in relation to electricity, market and agriculture and in relation to what is set out in the Belfast agreement.”

He added: “Of course there are going to be some arrangements that are going to apply differently in Northern ireland, as they do now, because of the nature of all-Ireland agreements and our desire not to have a hard border in Northern Ireland.

“The question is whether what is proposed – the backstop, this temporary arrangement we don’t want to see come into place, if it did come into place – be fundamentally different from what we have just now, and I am satisfied that in the round, it wouldn’t be.

“I am not saying that this is a perfect arrangement, but in the totality of the threats to the UK, the bigger threat to the integrity of the UK is crashing out of the EU with no deal.”

Mr Mundell’s ‘carpetbagger’ slur on Mr Rabb came after his resignation as secretary of state for exiting the European Union. He was followed by the secretary of state for work and pensions, Esther McVey, Northern Irish minister Shailesh Vara. Transport minister Jo Johnson also quit the previous week.

The Scottish secretary said: “He [Dominic Raab] has different principles because he believes a no-deal Brexit would be acceptable in the UK. I don’t.

“It would be disatrous for Scotland and the UK, and would be the biggest way in for the break-up of the UK, and that is why Nicola Sturgeon is so keen on it.”

Mr Mundell also said he continued to support Prime Minister Theresa May and would not back any calls for a leadership election.

He said: “I hope there isn’t such a vote, because it’s completely not necessary and would not take the situation forward at all, but I would vote to support the Prime Minister because I believe she is doing her best to take forward the national interests, beyond the interests of individual parties or politicians.

“Jeremy Corbyn is focused on getting a general election, Nicola Sturgeon is focused on an independence referendum, and Theresa May is focused on doing her best for this country.”