Acceptance of the Brexit draft withdrawal agreement would mean “sleepwalking into breaking up the United Kingdom”, a Scottish MP has warned.
Ross Thomson, the Conservative MP for Aberdeen South, said he and his party colleagues in Scotland could not vote for a deal that sees Northern Ireland treated differently from other parts of the UK, claiming it would “feed nationalism” and “break up the Union by the back door”.
Speaking to the News Letter yesterday afternoon as the prime minister discussed the draft deal with her cabinet, Mr Thomson said: “I haven’t seen the detail yet, however I know from discussions with people who are ministers and who have seen the detail that what has been reported in relation to differences within the United Kingdom, so a different situation for Northern Ireland, is true.
“Whereas the UK as a whole would be within the customs union Northern Ireland would also remain within the single market, meaning a divergence essentially between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which for those of us who are unionists is completely unacceptable.
“We have met with the Secretary of State (for Scotland) David Mundell and in that meeting with him we were very clear with him about our own feelings on this and I am glad that myself and the other 12 in our group are absolutely of the same view that the integrity of the UK, the UK as a single market, is incredibly important to us and we don’t want to see any differentiated deal, because when the UK voted to leave it was exactly that, as the whole UK.
“We have been promised that it will be the UK that leaves the EU, but under this arrangement you effectively have different regulatory regimes in Northern Ireland. You would have Northern Ireland subject to decisions taken in Brussels rather than here in the UK and that would do huge untold damage to the UK internal market.”
Warning that parliamentary approval for any such deal would “feed nationalism in Scotland”, Mr Thomson added: “The SNP have been seeking all along to keep Scotland trapped in the single market and customs union because they know that to do so would create so much divergence within the UK that effectively it would break up the Union by the back door, hence the SNP have always been keen on that proposal.
“That is why we can’t allow that to happen in Northern Ireland because essentially you will just sleepwalk into breaking up the UK by allowing that divergence.”
Mr Thomson, who was hoping to see the detail of the draft deal yesterday evening, said there should be a “meaningful vote” on the proposed agreement within four weeks.
“We will discuss this as a group, but essentially if, as we believe it is, that Northern Ireland is going to be treated differently we can’t accept that and could not vote in any good faith for that arrangement,” he continued.
“Unionists right across the House of Commons, people who believe in the United Kingdom, who believe that we are better together, that the UK is stronger together, cannot accept an arrangement where part of our United Kingdom is treated differently.”