Brexit is not a done deal yet, says minister who is plotting to keep Scotland in EU

PUBLISHED: 15:35 28 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:35 28 June 2017

Brexit minister Michael Russell

Brexit minister Michael Russell

PA Archive/PA Images

A Scottish minister has stated he is “not 100% convinced” the battle for Brexit is over yet.

Michael Russell told a Holyrood committee that while Brexit was “still the trajectory”, the result of the General Election - which saw the Conservative government lose its majority - had made it less certain, with “many options” still possible.

He told the Finance and Constitution Committee that arguments over the difficulty and cost of leaving had also “gained currency” over the past year.

“I think that the certainty of (Brexit) that existed before June 8 no longer exists in quite the same way,” he said.

“The trajectory would still appear to be in that direction but this is the most unpredictable set of circumstances that I have ever seen in politics.

“That is still the trajectory, I am working on the assumption that those negotiations that have started will continue and may come to a conclusion.

“I think it’s like having lots of parallel universes - there are lots of other possibilities still, some of which are very limited in likelihood, some of which are greater in likelihood.”

He added: “I am not 100% convinced that the exit will happen.”

Russell said it was clear Brexit would be “extremely difficult, incredibly expensive and will not produce anything like the boasted advantages that were claimed for it during the campaign”.

“It does seem in the last 12 months that argument has gained a great deal of currency,” he added.

His comments follow the First Minister’s pledge to put plans for a second independence referendum on hold until at least next autumn and “redouble” efforts to secure the best possible Brexit deal for Scotland.

The minister told MSPs the Scottish Government remained committed to staying in the EU and did not have to be a “cheerleader for Brexit” to be part of the negotiations.

Those negotiations began earlier this month, with the UK intent on leaving both the EU single market and its customs union.

The UK Government has proposed a transition period for the changes.

One of the Scottish Government’s key aims is keeping the country in the European single market.

Russell said: “I think the transitionary way forward is membership of the single market at this stage.

“That is, of course, traditionally a way into the EU and it might well work in that way for Scotland, it could be seen as a way out for the rest of the EU.

“I am not in doubt, if I could find a way for Scotland to stay in the EU, I would find that way and I continue to look for that way, but I am also trying to make sense of what is the most astonishing and difficult political situation that any of us will have faced.”

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