Scotland politics

'Detailed' Scottish government plans for no-deal Brexit

Mike Russell
Image caption Mike Russell said ministers had been meeting weekly to make preparations for Brexit

The Scottish government is making "detailed preparations" for the UK leaving the EU without a deal, Brexit Secretary Mike Russell has told MSPs.

The UK government has "ramped up" planning for a no-deal Brexit, amid a struggle to win MPs over to the divorce plan hammered out with EU negotiators.

Mr Russell said the "disaster" of a no-deal exit was "not yet inevitable", but that preparations must be made now.

Scottish and UK ministers will meet on Wednesday for talks about Brexit.

The Scottish Conservatives said the SNP should support the deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May if they wanted to avoid leaving without a deal.

Mr Russell's statement came as it was confirmed that Scottish soup firm Baxters is planning to stockpile ingredients in case supplies are disrupted in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

The Fochabers-based business has made plans to stockpile items such as tomatoes and chorizo amid fears they could become more difficult to obtain.

Mr Russell told MSPs that the "availability and price of food and drink are likely to be significantly affected" in a no-deal scenario, which he said would "jeopardise Scotland's food security".

The minister said the government was working with distributors, purchasers, suppliers, transport providers and ports to "fully assess the impact and identify what can be done to help mitigate disruption".

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Mr Russell said work was also under way to "ensure continuing supplies of medicines", with medical devices and clinical goods being stockpiled.

He said police were looking at substitutes for law enforcement information-sharing schemes and tools such as the European Arrest Warrant and Europol, warning that losing access to these would "represent a significant downgrading of our policing and security capability".

And he said the government was actively investigating ways of getting Scottish goods to market in the EU, warning that seafood could face "catastrophic" delays at Dover and that beef and lamb could be subject to "significant tariffs".

However, he warned that while ministers were doing "everything we can to prepare and help, we must not let anyone believe we can do everything".

The Scottish government's resilience committee has been meeting weekly, led by Deputy First Minister John Swinney and with input from police, councils, transport and food standards groups.

Mr Russell said ministers had agreed on Tuesday to "accelerate" this work, "to mitigate the potential impacts of the UK leaving the EU without a deal".

Image caption Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said there was a deal on the table to avoid a no-deal exit

The UK government has insisted that its "overall priority is to secure a deal", but has confirmed there will be a "significant increase" in planning for a no-deal exit.

Responding to Mr Russell, Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said the best way to avoid exiting without a deal was to accept the deal which will be put to a vote of MPs in January.

He said: "The truth is that there doesn't need to be any risk of a no-deal Brexit, for the simple reason that there is a deal on the table, a concluded negotiated withdrawal agreement.

"A withdrawal agreement that I support, but that that SNP MPs are set to vote down - the only people risking a no-deal Brexit are the people who stand in opposition to the prime minister's deal."

Labour's Neil Findlay said the UK was being "taken to the brink" by a "incompetent and useless government".

He said a no-deal exit would cause "huge problems in major areas of our economy and society", urging Conservative MPs to join with his party to "work to end this madness" and "negotiate a customs union plan".

Green MSP Ross Greer also said the UK was "being taken by the brink of disaster" by Mrs May's government, while Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie urged politicians to get behind a fresh referendum on Brexit.

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