MICHAEL Gove has been told Scotland will be at a disadvantage over Northern Ireland because of the latter being given a special Brexit deal.
The SNP’s Christine Grahame made the point to the Tory minister when she quizzed him on the region’s bespoke arrangement which will allow it to have closer trading ties to the EU than the rest of the UK from January 1.
Graham argued that while she understands why Northern Ireland had been given the deal, Scotland should have been allowed a similar one.
She added: “Somebody who is a processor in Scotland whether it’s fish or meat or anything, there is nothing to stop them relocating to Northern Ireland, setting up there, registering there as a company there and they are tariff-free.
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“And this will disadvantage Scotland. There is no doubt about that.”
Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, who is in charge of No Deal planning, responded saying Scots would not be at an disadvantage over Northern Ireland.
He told the committee: “I don’t think so. I think Scotland has many many advantages, an educated workforce, a UK Government which stands ready to support them through the power of the Treasury.”
The row follows several senior Scottish Tories – including Ruth Davidson, David Mundell and Adam Tomkins – saying all parts of the UK should have the same form of Brexit and that Northern Ireland should not have a special deal.
The First Minister had repeatedly asked for a special deal for Scotland to reflect its remain vote, like Northern Ireland’s.
However, despite EU figures suggesting they would be open to such a proposal, the UK Government rejected the request.
Gove also told Holyrood’s Europe committee he tried to avoid “pitting parts of the UK against each other” over funding for preparations to leave the EU.
Scotland has received “just shy” of £200 million to prepare for leaving the EU, according to the Cabinet Office minister, while Northern Ireland has been given £400 million from the Treasury.
Gove said it was a “fair challenge” to ask why Scotland did not receive a population based share of funding, but said he wanted to ensure “that the people of Northern Ireland are able to enjoy the fruits of peace and prosperity”.
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He went on to say that the UK was built on “solidarity and sharing”, and would help countries within the Union that had faced “challenges” in the past.
Scotland would be entitled to £1.4 billion if the funding was issued based on population, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said.
Despite appearing to reject the idea of more money for Scotland, Gove said the decision is kept “under review”.
“Pitting one part of the United Kingdom by saying it’s not fair that Northern Ireland benefits … that’s not the sort of thing that I’m terribly keen on,” Gove said.
“My view is that the United Kingdom is built on solidarity and sharing, and that the United Kingdom benefits from the fact that those parts of the UK that may have had a tougher time in the past, we stand by and we support.
“That’s one of the reasons why, from Lanarkshire to Larne, the UK Government spends the money that it does – because we want to show solidarity with those who may have endured whether it was deindustrialisation in the past or other challenges.”