Devolved administrations hold ‘difficult’ Brexit talks

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Mr Russell called the UK government’s approach “concerning”

Scotland’s Brexit minister has said there is “great frustration building up” over the UK’s handling of Brexit.

Speaking after a gathering of ministers from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, Mike Russell said it had been a “difficult” morning.

He said Prime Minister Theresa May had “pre-empted” much of their discussion.

Writing for The Times newspaper, Prime Minister Theresa May said the Scottish government should be “fully engaged” in the Brexit process.

A Brexit document prepared in Edinburgh was discussed at the Joint Ministerial Meeting in London.

The Scottish government said its plan outlined a “flexible” approach that would take into account the needs of different parts of the UK.

After the meeting, Mr Russell said: “It was a difficult morning.

“On the positive side, we were able to take forward the Scottish paper and have an agreement that the options that remain, and that paper would be taken forward by technical discussion and by bi-lateral discussion.

“But overall its very concerning.

“The prime minister’s speech this week was the wrong thing to say at the wrong time.

“I think it’s fair to say that at least in great part the other administrations [of the United Kingdom] were very concerned that she had pre-empted this meeting.”

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Mr Mundell said the Scottish plan had not been ruled out

Sinn Fein has indicated it is unhappy with the process and said it could pull out of it.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said after the meeting the UK government had not ruled out what the Scottish government had proposed.

He said: “If there is evidence that, for some reason, there should be a differentiated Scottish arrangement, then of course that will be properly looked at and considered.

“But at the moment I don’t have any evidence to suggest that Scotland would benefit from a differentiated arrangement from the rest of the UK.

“If we can get that access to the single market, without barriers and without tariffs, then that’s exactly what Scotland’s businesses are looking for. That’s what Scotland’s economy needs.”

He added: “That’s why we should, in my view, all come together and focus on achieving that outcome for the United Kingdom.”

Scottish contribution

In her newspaper article, Mrs May said she welcomed the Scottish contribution.

The prime minister said the Joint Ministerial Meeting was the first chance to discuss the Scottish proposals.

She said: “From the start I’ve been determined that the Scottish government should be fully engaged in the process and my commitment remains absolute.

“I welcome the Scottish government’s paper.

“Today we shall seek to understand more about its proposals and press on with sharing information and views, and we will continue to do so in a series of further meetings before our formal negotiations with the EU begin.”

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The prime minister said she respected Scottish voters who wanted to remain in the EU

The Scottish government said it accepted there would be one deal over exit from Europe, but within that it wanted to see a “differentiated approach” for Scotland.

At last June’s referendum on membership of the EU, voters in Scotland backed remain by 62% to 38%. In the UK as a whole, the vote was 52% to 48% to leave.

‘Ready to strike a deal’

In The Times piece, Mrs May repeated her opposition to Scottish independence.

And on the rights of EU citizens living in Scotland, she expressed optimism that a deal would be reached.

Mrs May added: “We want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Scotland and the rights of Scots in other member states as quickly as we can.

“I am ready to strike such a deal right now and many EU leaders agree.

“But I want no-one to be in any doubt that it remains an important priority to resolve this – because it is the right and fair thing to do.”

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Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs: “I am determined to save Scotland from Brexit.”

Scotland’s future post-Brexit was being discussed on Thursday inside and outside Holyrood.

The author of Article 50, which needs to be triggered in order to start the process of the UK leaving the EU, told the BBC that it would be “difficult” for Scotland to get a “differentiated deal”.

Lord Kerr said he was impressed with the Scottish government’s paper on options for Scotland’s place in Europe.

But on the plan to retain membership of the single market for Scotland, he told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I’m not sure that’s negotiable. I’m not sure that legally feasible.

“I’m not sure it’s workable with possible border controls at Gretna. But it was at least a serious proposal and I hope it will get a serious answer.”

At First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said she was “determined to save Scotland from Brexit”.

She again attacked the Conservatives over Europe, accusing the party of putting its “obsession with immigration” ahead of the interests of the economy.

Ms Sturgeon told the chamber: “I am determined to save Scotland from Brexit.

“It’s not just the case that the Tories are running towards Brexit, they want to drag Scotland kicking and screaming over that Brexit cliff-edge and I’m determined they are not going to get away with this.”

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