May has lied to us – Blackford
PM is slammed over Brexit backstop row in Commons
Scottish Secretary David Mundell will today tell Nicola Sturgeon to “open her ears” and “hear what Scotland is actually saying” about Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
The Tory frontbencher, who backs the prime minister, will say the SNP leader needs to listen to the views of Scottish business.
In a speech in London, Mr Mundell is expected to highlight a “recognition” that there are “only two options on the table” and that a “no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for the economy”.
He will add: “There is a consistent view that the Withdrawal Agreement provides a workable basis on which to move forward.
“Over the past fortnight, calls to support the deal have grown steadily louder.”
The comments come after Sir Ian Wood and the Scotch Whisky Association, among other organisations, voiced their support for Mrs May’s deal.
But a Scottish Government source dismissed Mr Mundell’s planned remarks as “dross” and said it would not be dignifying them with a response.
SNP MSP Tom Arthur said the UK minister was “so delusional” he was “fast becoming the Comical Ali of Brexit”.
The nickname was given to Mohammad Said Sahhaf, who rose to prominence after the 2003 invasion of Iraq as Saddam Hussein’s propaganda chief.
Mr Mundell is due to say: “Nicola Sturgeon is very good at telling us all what Scotland thinks. It’s funny how it’s always what she thinks.
“But what she really needs to do is open her ears, and hear what Scotland is actually saying.
“If she genuinely wants to represent Scotland’s views she has to stop lecturing and start listening.”
He will acknowledge the deal is not perfect and accept business leaders don’t believe it is either, but add: “I am more and more convinced it is right for Scotland and the whole of the UK.”
He will also reiterate his assurances to Scottish fishermen that no future deal will link EU access to UK fishing grounds to UK access to EU markets.
Mr Arthur said: “David Mundell is so delusional he is fast becoming the Comical Ali of Brexit.
“His claims that this is a choice between the PM’s bad deal and no deal have already been completely demolished by Theresa May’s humiliating Commons defeats and by the opinion from the European Court of Justice.”
Theresa May was last night branded a liar after the government’s legal advice on the Brexit deal revealed how difficult it could be for Britain to pull out of EU customs arrangements if it fails to negotiate a longterm replacement.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox’s letter – published only after ministers were held in contempt of parliament – had exposed as untrue the Prime Minister’s assertions about the temporary nature of the backstop aimed at avoiding a hard border on Ireland.
The Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP accused the Tory leader of “misleading the House” at Prime Minister’s Questions “inadvertently or otherwise” and then – to shouts of “withdraw” – “perhaps inadvertently”.
Commons Speaker John Bercow censured him, insisting the “option of imputing dishonour does not exist”, but Mr Blackford went even further outside the chamber afterwards, calling Mrs May a liar.
He said: “Let’s call a spade a spade. On the basis of the legal advice and on the basis she had it when she spoke in the House of Commons, then she has lied, yes.”
Defending herself at PMQs, Mrs May said she had been clear there was “no unilateral right to pull out of the backstop”.
She also repeated that it was “not the intention of either party for the backstop to be used in the first place or, if it is used, to be anything other than temporary”.
Meanwhile, reports have emerged that Downing Street is considering a “parliamentary lock” that would mean the backstop could not be entered into without the consent of MPs, as a means of encouraging Brexiteers to back Mrs May’s deal in Tuesday’s meaningful vote.
In bold text in his letter to the prime minister, Mr Cox wrote: “Despite statements in the protocol that it (the backstop) is not intended to be permanent, and the clear intention of the parties that it should be replaced by alternative, permanent arrangements, in international law the protocol would endure indefinitely until a superseding agreement took its place.
“In conclusion, the current drafting of the protocol… does not provide for a mechanism that is likely to enable the UK lawfully to exit the UK-wide customs union without a subsequent agreement.
“This remains the case even if the parties are still negotiating many years later.”
He also advised that in the “absence of a right of termination there is a legal risk that the UK might become subject to protracted and repeating rounds of negotiations”.
Responding to Mr Blackford, Mrs May denied the government had “concealed the facts” , but the SNP MP said it had “tried to hide that they are giving Northern Ireland permanent membership of the single market and customs union”.
He also asked the PM to explain why she continued to “deny Scotland” a differentiated deal.
Mrs May said there was “no difference” between Mr Cox’s statement on Monday and the letter and added: “For Scotland, remaining in the internal market of the UK is the most important economic interest, and it is in the interests of Scotland to come out of the common fisheries policy. That is in our deal and our policy.”
Labour former Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said it was “clear why the government tried to keep the public in the dark”, voicing “particular concern” that “only Northern Ireland could be left in the EU customs territory, which risks fracturing the UK”.
Protestors holding a pro-