May has lied to us – Black­ford

PM is slammed over Brexit back­stop row in Com­mons

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - FRONT PAGE -

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-

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