Russell in Brussels claims he’s talking to Spain about Brexit

The Scottish Conservatives are calling for Mike Russell to urgently clarify his plans on Brexit after he told a Brussels audience that the Scottish Government is holding discussions with Spain on a separate deal for Scotland.


At an event on Monday, the Scottish Government’s Brexit minister was asked if he had already been in contact with the Spanish about his plans for a separate Scottish deal on Brexit.

The Spanish Government has already registered its opposition to a separate Scottish deal on Brexit.

However, Mr Russell replied: “I am not going to reveal everybody’s conversations, but I think you can take it that as intelligent people we would not be talking in these terms unless we were having conversations.”

Bizarrely, he also claimed to the audience that “five million” citizens in Scotland voted to Remain.

Mr Russell’s comments were made yesterday to an audience of EU officials and diplomats but were not reported.

However, the Scottish Conservatives recorded the full proceedings, and are making the tape available today.

Mr Russell also incorrectly claimed to the audience that – apart from four Scottish Conservative MSPs – nobody in the Scottish Parliament supported Brexit.

This is despite the fact that SNP MSP Alex Neil has said he voted to leave the European Union, while Jim Sillars has also claimed that as many as six SNP MSPs also voted to leave, but have been told not to speak out.

Expanding on his plans to spell out a “differentiated deal” for Scotland, Mr Russell also declared that a separate EEA/EFTA deal for Scotland was “not ruled out”.

Scottish Conservative MEP Ian Duncan said:

“In front of a sympathetic audience in Brussels, it appears Mike Russell has gone on a flight of fancy.

“Now he’s back home, he needs to explain himself as a matter of urgency.

“Has he been holding discussions with the Spanish Government on a separate Scottish deal on Brexit, as he suggested at this meeting? If so, what is the nature of those discussions?

“He also needs to correct the record. He claimed that five million Scots voted to remain in the EU, which is clearly nonsense when the correct figure is 1.6 million.

“We know that SNP MSP Alex Neil supported Brexit and that as many as six other SNP MSPs did likewise.

“Yet Mr Russell has gone to Brussels and tried to paint a completely false picture.

“As is typical of the SNP, when they think they can get away with telling complete untruths, they will always do so.

“Mr Russell also claims that a so-called Norway deal is ‘on the table’ – despite the fact that Norway’s own trade minister has ruled it out.

“The SNP is using Brexit to drive forward its unwanted case for independence. Mr Russell’s day-trip to Brussels has once again shown that this is a government which cannot be trusted to represent all of Scotland.”

A full recording of Mr Russell’s meeting in Brussels can be found here:

Points of interest include:

14.00 -“ when you have 5 million citizens who have quite clearly said they do not want to give up their European citizenship.”

19:05 – On his plans for a separate Scottish deal, he said:

“Clearly there are arrangements –  state arrangements, EEA-EFTA arrangements – that do not have sub-state members but that has not been completely ruled out and there might be a discussion.”

22:41 – Asked whether he had already had contact with Spain, he said:

“I am not going to reveal everybody’s conversations, but I think you can take it that as intelligent people we would not be talking in these terms unless we were having conversations.”

27:15 – On the vote for a Brexit deal in the Scottish Parliament, he said:

“The Conservatives only had, I think, 4 members who were pro Brexit – everybody else in the parliament, 129 members, were against Brexit.”​

The meeting was partially reported by Reuters, here:

Spain’s position on Scotland post Brexit was set out by Premier Mariano Rajoy here: