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The Government's Brexit trade deal will boost all four nations of “our precious Union”, Dominic Raab has insisted, as the Scottish Nationalist Party vowed to vote against it.
The Foreign Secretary said the agreement would bolster fishing communities in Scotland and protect the free flow of trade in Northern Ireland, while avoiding a hard border in the island of Ireland and safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement.
Writing for The Telegraph, Mr Raab said the UK-EU deal secured last week meant Britons could put “Brexit divisions well and truly behind us” and “come together” in 2021.
However, the SNP has announced it would vote against the treaty when the legislation underpinning it comes before the Commons on Wednesday, branding it an “unforgivable act of economic vandalism” and a “disaster for Scotland”.
Following a meeting of the SNP Parliamentary Group, the party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford argued Scotland, which voted to Remain in the EU in 2016, had been “completely ignored by Westminster throughout the Brexit process and we are being forced to pay a devastating price”.
He added: “It is clear that the only way to protect Scotland's interests, and regain the full benefits of EU membership, is to become an independent country.”
A Scottish government analysis has shown that a Brexit deal similar to Mr Johnson's could see Scotland's GDP fall around 6.1 per cent, costing more than £9 billion, or the equivalent of £1,600 for every person, Mr Blackford said.
Despite the confirmation that the SNP’s 48 MPs will vote against the Future Relationship Bill, which gives legal effect to the Brexit trade deal, the legislation is expected to pass with ease this week. Labour has vowed to back it and any Tory rebellion is predicted to be minimal.
Mr Raab’s bid to highlight the deal’s benefit to all four corners of the United Kingdom signals a new focus of ministers' attention now the Brexit agreement has been negotiated: the Union.
Concerns have risen in Westminster in the wake of a series of opinion polls indicating that a majority of voters in Scotland now favour Scottish independence.
Boris Johnson has consistently opposed a second independence referendum, arguing that the 2014 poll was agreed at the time to be a “once in a generation” vote.
Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, hardened the Government’s position last month by suggesting that a generation meant “25 or 40 years”.
Next month, a landmark court case will decide whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to stage a second referendum against the instructions of the Prime Minister.
Mr Raab’s intervention comes after Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, said at the weekend that Brexit will allow for a “new settlement with the UK”.
Labour has pledged to offer more devolution as an alternative to Scottish independence.
In his article, Mr Raab also argued the Brexit agreement will help the UK become “an even stronger force for good in the world”, unlocking Boris Johnson’s “Global Britain” ambitions and the ability to strike free trade agreements around the globe.
He highlighted the UK’s commitment of £500 million to roll out vaccines to the poorest countries, in the wake of a global vaccine summit hosted by the Prime Minister.
Britain is also the first major economy to legislate to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, he said, adding: “Now, we are pressing governments around the world to match that level of ambition – with Japan, South Korea, the US and many other major players signalling the will to come together to shift the dial on climate change.”