EXCL Ruth Davidson warns Theresa May Brexit deal must not threaten ‘integrity of our United Kingdom’

Posted On: 
14th October 2018

Scottish Tory bigwigs Ruth Davidson and David Mundell have warned Theresa they will ditch their support for her Brexit strategy if it threatens “the integrity of our United Kingdom”, PoliticsHome can reveal.

Ms Davidson and Mr Mundell made clear that keeping the UK together was their top priority

The pair set out their concerns in a joint-letter to the Prime Minister last week.

In it, Scots Tory leader Ms Davidson and Scottish Secretary Mr Mundell made it clear they were prepared to quit their posts if a new border was created in the Irish Sea.

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The EU has proposed keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union and large parts of the single market as a way of maintaining an open border with the Republic of Ireland.

Mrs May has proposed keeping the whole of the UK in the customs union on a temporary basis while a long-term solution is found.

But in their letter, Ms Davidson and Mr Mundell made clear that keeping the UK together was their top priority.

They said: “Having fought just four years ago to keep our country together, the integrity of our United Kingdom remains the single most important issue for us in these negotiations.

“Any deal that delivers a differentiated settlement for Northern Ireland beyond the differences that already exist on an all Ireland basis (eg Agriculture), or can be brought under the provisions of the Belfast Agreement, would undermine the integrity of our UK internal market and this United Kingdom.”

The letter adds: “We could not support any deal that creates a border of any kind in the Irish Sea and undermines the Union or leads to Northern Ireland having a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK, beyond what currently exists."

The letter piles further pressure on the Prime Minister, who is already facing pressure from eurosceptics in her Cabinet and on the Tory backbenches.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis has also called on Cabinet members to resign over Mrs May’s Brexit strategy.

A Scottish Tory source said Ms Davidson and Mr Mundell supported the Brexit position agreed by the Cabinet at Chequers in July.

However, they insisted their “red line” was avoiding anything which could threaten to tear the UK apart.

One insider told PoliticsHome: “Not putting a new border down the Irish Sea has been the Scottish party's red line from the start.

"If anyone thinks Ruth and David care more about the Tory party than the United Kingdom, they are kidding themselves. They are not the threatening or flouncing types, but this is an article of faith."

However, SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was quick to mock the claim, dismissing their stance as "bizarre" and suggesting they would not follow through with it. 

Also responding on social media, Labour MP for Edinburgh South Ian Murray described the threat as "utterly contemptible."

Mrs May is facing mounting pressure ahead of a crunch EU Council summit in Brussels later this week.

Before then, she will make a final attempt to sell her plans at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Failure to do so could spark a wave of resignations which could end up sweeping her from office.