No-deal Brexit tariffs are “not necessarily the end of the world”, a minister in the Scottish Office has said. However, his comments were met with derision.
David Duguid told the BBC that there would still be access to the EU market after Brexit in the event of no agreement being reached.
His comments came on the same day as decisive talks between the UK and EU were due to take place, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson having said previously that a no-deal outcome is “very, very likely”.
Mr Duguid told Politics Scotland: “That’s not necessarily the end of the world.
“We talk about financial tariffs, we talk about non-tariff barriers, these are all the things we’re trying to avoid with a free trade agreement.
“We export from countries we don’t have free trade agreements with, on Australia terms for example, which is the expression often used.
“It doesn’t stop exports, it doesn’t stop trade.”
Scotland’s Constitution Secretary, Mike Russell, told the same show that tariffs would be “a disaster”.
“For Mr Duguid or anybody else to say these are irrelevant is nonsense,” he said.
“Tariffs on land, for example, a big issue in Scotland, would be 60%. That’s not currency fluctuation, that’s disaster.”
The Scottish Office minister also sought to counter claims that a no-deal Brexit would result in food shortages, saying there has been some “scaremongering” around the issue.
He said: “There is a lot of scaremongering going around, not least by the SNP and others who would have us believe that the sky is going to fall down.”
Mr Duguid went on to say he could not guarantee there would not be food shortages after Brexit, calling it “hypothetical”.
He added: “You may not get the shape of pasta you like, but there will not be the kind of shortages that I think has been reported.”
Mr Duguid admitted time is running out for a deal to be approved, but added: “I’m always optimistic and I know the UK Government and our negotiators have been basically turning over every stone to try and get a deal.
“But we have to make a decision today and we are going to reach the end of the transition period at the end of this year so time is running very short on that.
“But that’s not to say that discussions won’t continue beyond the transition period.”
Brexit has been described as an “unforgivable act of economic sabotage” as the prospect of leaving the EU without a deal looms.
Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Mike Russell urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ensure a no-deal Brexit is “taken off the table” during crunch talks on Sunday, but described even leaving with a deal as “massively damaging”.
In recent days, the Prime Minister has hinted numerous times at the prospect of a no-deal, saying it is “very, very likely” and asking people to prepare for an “Australia-style solution”.
“Boris Johnson’s decision to end the Brexit transition period in the middle of a pandemic and deep recession is an unforgivable act of economic sabotage to Scotland’s economy,” Mr Russell said.
“The deal the Prime Minister says he wants will involve major trade barriers in less than three weeks’ time and will remove Scotland from the European Single Market, which by population is seven times the size of the UK.
“That will be massively damaging but even worse will be a no-deal Brexit. That is simply unthinkable and must be removed from the table today before Boris Johnson tips Scotland over the sharpest of cliff-edges.”