Scotland politics

No-deal Brexit 'not seriously damaging', says new Scottish secretary

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Media captionAlister Jack: "If we have to leave without a deal, if I feel we have prepared for that, then we will leave without a deal. That will be a Cabinet decision and that is what we all have signed up to."

Leaving the EU without a deal would not be "seriously damaging" if the UK prepares for it properly, the new Scottish Secretary has claimed.

Alister Jack said there would be "some bumps along the way", but said the UK could do "great things" after Brexit.

He has taken over as Scottish Secretary after David Mundell was sacked by Boris Johnson, the new prime minister.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a no-deal Brexit would be "catastrophic" and would cost thousands of jobs.

She wrote to Mr Johnson saying it was "essential" that Scotland have an "alternative option", and wants to hold a new independence referendum in the second half of 2020.

Mr Jack said this should "absolutely not" happen, saying that "we decided that in 2014".

Mr Johnson has targeted leaving the European Union at the end of the current extension to the negotiating period, on 31 October.

Although he said he was confident a deal could be done, he stressed that the UK would leave on that date "no ifs, no buts".

Ms Sturgeon highlighted Scottish government analysis that this could cost 100,000 jobs in Scotland alone.

However Mr Jack told BBC Scotland that having the option of leaving without a deal "on the table" would help the UK "hold our opponent's feet to the fire" in talks.

He said that it would be in the EU's interest to do a deal with the UK, but said that the whole cabinet had signed up to leave without one if necessary.

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Image caption Boris Johson's new-look cabinet has backed his goal of leaving the EU by October 31

He said: "I don't think a no deal Brexit will be seriously damaging if we prepare for it properly.

"I think there will be bumps along the way, I'm realistic about that. But I think there are great opportunities for us as a nation on the other side of Brexit.

"One thing I'd like to see is a strong deal with our European partners, a free trade agreement. But we could do great free trade agreements elsewhere.

"There may be some bumps if we end up with no deal, it's not my preferred option. But I think as the fifth strongest economy in the world, we can do great things."

'Catastrophic consequences'

Mr Jack's position runs directly against that of Ms Sturgeon - and of Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, who penned a joint letter with his Scottish counterpart urging Mr Johnson to rule out a no-deal exit.

They said that while work would continue to prepare as much as possible for such a Brexit, "there should be no doubt that the consequences would be catastrophic for all parts of the UK".

They wrote: "It would be unconscionable for a UK Government to contemplate a chaotic no-deal exit, and we urge you to reject this possibility clearly and unambiguously as soon as possible.

"We are also clear that the decision on EU exit must now be put back to the people.

"It is the policy of both governments that the UK parliament should legislate for a further referendum. If such a referendum is held we will argue strongly that the UK should remain in the EU."

Questioned about the warnings from the two first minsters, Mr Jack said "they're both remainers, they would say that".

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