Mike Russell: UK Gov position on Brexit “runs against the grain of devolution”

Nathanael Williams

Scottish minister for Brexit emphasises the need for Scotland to find a balanced settlement and rescue liberal values

MIKE RUSSELL, the Scottish Government minister charged with defending Scotland’s place in Europe, has said that any failure to gain a special deal for Scotland during Brexit negotiations would violate the principle of devolution.

In a lecture on Europe at Queen Margaret University, the minister told attendees including EU national students that resisting Brexit was as much about standing for “liberal” values as getting the best deal for Scotland.

He also pointed to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s recent trip to Ireland as an example of the positive relationship building happening between Scotland and European Union states.

Russell said: “To say that we entered as a United Kingdom and therefore we must leave as a United Kingdom denies reality. It fundamentally rejects everything that has happened in the last twenty years. 

“We may have entered the EU under a different set of arrangements but such a position from the UK Government would run against the grain of the current constitutional situation. I do not think anyone is serious about that.

“In any case, we can't be guided by precedent as we are in uncharted waters. Whatever happens, we are going to be unique.”

“To say that we entered as a United Kingdom and therefore we must leave as a United Kingdom denies reality.” Mike Russell

Russell also emphasised that the rise of Trump in the US and far-right groups and parties in the continent made it an imperative for all progressives to be more “creative and fervent in defence of liberal values.” He suggested that inroads made by Ukip in the north east of England, Front National in northern former socialist industrial towns in France and Trump in the rust belt resulted from a “palpable vacuum” which was being filled with all kinds of negativity.

He added: “If you look at what has happened with the rise of Trump in the US. The rise of a belligerent populism in the Western hemisphere – we need to be prepared more than ever to stand for our values.

“And those are, for the most part, liberal with a small ‘l’. But these are to say we are not ashamed to see Europe and membership as a positive thing and our place in it is to be engaged with Europe.”

The UK voted for Brexit on 23 June, with a 52 per cent majority. Scotland voted to remain within the 28 member block by 62 per cent.

Picture: CommonSpace

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