A separate Brexit deal for Scotland is not a realistic prospect, the Chancellor has said. Philip Hammond said special arrangements for Scotland on immigration and trade would be “impractical”, ahead of a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh.
The Scottish Government later said the Chancellor had promised to “fully consider” its proposals to protect Scotland’s place in Europe.
Mr Hammond’s earlier comments suggest that while the Conservative Government could look at input from Ms Sturgeon on the UK Brexit position as a whole, it is not willing to consider a separate arrangement north of the border.
Ms Sturgeon is due to publish options in the next few weeks focused on keeping Scotland in the European single market, even if the UK leaves it.
A spokesman for the First Minister said: “The Chancellor said he looked forward to hearing our proposals on Scotland’s place in Europe, and that they will be considered fully by the UK Government.”
But asked earlier about a separate deal, Mr Hammond said: “Honestly I think this is not a realistic prospect.
“The European Union is clear it will negotiate a deal with the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom is the member state, and I think you only need to think about it for a few moments to realise that a separate negotiation deal for any part of the United Kingdom would be impractical.”
Mr Hammond also said such an arrangement could disadvantage Scotland because the UK market is “four times more important” than the European single market.
“I know Scotland, like the rest of the UK, has important trading relationships with the EU, but Scotland’s most important trading relationship is the trading relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom,” he said.
“And it is not at all clear how being outside of the UK’s arrangements with the EU could in anyway advantage Scotland. I would suggest that would be a disadvantage to Scotland.”
He added: “This is a United Kingdom issue, and the will of the people of the United Kingdom was to leave.
“We are clear that we can’t have a different deal or different outcome for different parts of the United Kingdom.”
Ms Sturgeon has previously said the Scottish Government is considering the options of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and European Economic Area (EEA) to keep Scotland in the single market.
Scotland’s Brexit minister Michael Russell has said such options could provide an alternative route for Scotland, should the UK Government opt for a “hard Brexit” outside of the European trade bloc.
Meanwhile, the Lord Advocate is to argue that it would be unlawful for the Brexit process to be triggered without consent from Holyrood as part of a legal challenge at the Supreme Court in London.
Asked about the prospect of consent being required from Holyrood, Mr Hammond said: “I am not going to speculate on issues that are before the courts at the moment.
“But what I will say is this: I want to work closely with the Scottish Government and the other devolved administrations to make sure that we approach these negotiations in a way that secures the best possible deal for all parts of the United Kingdom, and I look forward to us moving on from this sort of slightly backward looking clutching at straws, trying to resist the will of the people, to embracing it, recognising that it is going to happen, and committing to work together to make sure it’s done in a way that is most supportive of the UK economy and Scottish economy.”
A spokesman for the First Minister said of the Scottish Government’s proposals: “Those proposals, which we will publish in the coming weeks, will be aimed at securing Scotland’s place in the single market, which is vital for jobs, investment and our overall economic wellbeing.”