Scotland shut out of Theresa May’s ‘war cabinet’ on Brexit

Ministers in Scotland were left out of key discussions the Prime Minister held with colleagues over the direction her Government takes in next month’s trade talks with the European Union.

Neither the Scotland Secretary David Mundell or any member of the Scottish Government took part in the meeting despite an urgent appeal by Nicola Sturgeon to be involved in talks to thrash out the negotiating position ahead of the meeting at the European Council.

Stephen Gethins, the SNP’s Europe spokesman, pressed May once again to allow Scotland and the rest of the UK to remain in the single market.

He said: “It cannot be the case that Scotland’s interests and future relationship with the EU are left to the whim of a Tory Brexit ‘war cabinet’ which is at war with itself.

“In the last few weeks it has become clear beyond doubt that the UK’s continued membership of the single market and customs union is vital for the economic interests of Scotland and the UK.”

Over the last few weeks cabinet arguments have intensified over what sort of relationship the UK should have with the EU post-Brexit.

Hardline Brexiteers have pushed for complete divergence between UK regulations and the EU, with those who are more pro-EU calling instead for greater alignment.

A report from the Scottish Government and a leaked study by the UK Government have both warned of the severe economic damage the UK faces under all Brexit scenarios, including the least worst option of single market membership – an option May has ruled out.

Gethins added: “Time is fast running out – Theresa May must take heed of her own Government’s damaging Brexit analysis.

“The crucial European Council meeting in March is approaching – as well as the UK’s self-imposed exile day in March 2019 – however, there is still time for Theresa May to hold meaningful discussions with the devolved administrations to shape a UK-wide approach to the negotiations with the EU.”

Responding to the concerns, a UK Government spokesperson said: “The UK Government is seeking the right deal for Scotland and whole of the UK as we leave the EU. The Secretary of State champions and promotes Scotland’s interests at the heart of Whitehall every day, including at the Cabinet table.”

Ahead of a war cabinet meeting yesterday, which will continue today, it emerged that the EU wants a mechanism to sanction the UK for breaches of any transition deal.

Stefaan De Rynck, an adviser to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, said penalties for any UK breaches of Brussels rules during the transition “of course” had to be part of any deal.

The move came against the background of anger by hardline Brexiteers, who do not want to have to ensure the UK abides by EU rules during the transition period.

De Rynck wrote on Twitter: “The EU responds to PM May’s request to benefit from single market & customs union for a limited time during which all must play by the same rules. Foreseeing possibility of sanctions for foul play is of course part of any


Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said that if the transition to Brexit took place under the EU’s proposed terms, the UK would become “Vichy Britain” – a reference to the collaborationist Vichy regime in France during Nazi occupation.

Lord Adonis, a former cabinet member who has been vocal in opposing Brexit, replied: “By describing this country as ‘Vichy Britain’ Nigel Farage is engaging in wish fulfilment of the most repulsive kind.”

Meanwhile, a Holyrood committee has made another request for the Brexit Secretary to give evidence on the UK Government’s position on leaving the EU. The Europe Committee has written to David Davis for the sixth time inviting him to appear. It is seeking clarity on the relationship the UK is pursuing with the EU, and the impact it would have on Scotland.