BUSINESS leaders from across the farming and food and drink industry in Scotland have called on politicians to avoid a "no deal" Brexit.

In an open joint letter, chief executives from seven bodies representing the sectors suggested this scenario would cost the industry around £2 billion in lost sales annually.

MPs will vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's deal on Tuesday, with the UK expected to depart the European Union on March 29.

The letter states: "Whilst recognising there is no political consensus yet on a future trade relationship with Europe, the potentially catastrophic impact of not reaching any deal is clear.

"We are collectively hugely ambitious for the growth of our industry.

"However, even using the UK Government's own projections, we estimate the cost of no deal to our industry would be at least £2 billion in lost sales annually. That is on top of the short-term chaos resulting from transport delays and labour shortages."

James Withers (Scotland Food & Drink), Scott Walker (NFU Scotland), Alan Clarke (Quality Meat Scotland), David Thomson (Food and Drink Federation Scotland), Julie Hesketh-Laird (Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation), Alasdair Smith (Scottish Bakers) and James Graham (Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society) are the chief executives who are signatories to the letter.

The seven industry leaders also indicated their businesses have already been impacted by the possibility of a no deal.

They state in the document: "Our businesses are already bearing the cost of no deal, having to spend millions of pounds in time and investment to mitigate the potential disruption that will stem from the UK crashing out of the EU.

"We represent the people who farm Scotland's land and seas, and food and drink businesses that are the nation's largest onshore manufacturing industry, employing 120,000 people.

"The EU accounts for 70% of Scottish food exports annually and it is also the source of crucial inputs and supplies for our sector.

"By Parliament rejecting a no deal scenario, our industry effort can focus on shaping a future relationship with the EU that we can work with, not preparing for the fallout we can't. There is no tolerance for no deal as an option. It must be rejected now."

Meanwhile, Cabinet minister Chris Grayling has been accused of "gutter politics" after he warned that blocking Brexit could "open the door" to "extremist" populist political forces in the UK.

Grayling said putting a stop to Britain's withdrawal from the EU may end centuries of "moderate" politics the UK has enjoyed since the English Civil War as he urged his Conservative colleagues to back May's Brexit deal.

The Transport Secretary, who campaigned to Leave the European Union, said the millions who voted for Brexit would feel "cheated" if the UK did not quit the bloc.

Days before the critical Commons vote, Grayling said: "People have to think long and hard about how they are going to vote. This is too important for political game-playing and I urge Conservative MPs who back Brexit and others to back the deal.

"If not, we risk a break with the British tradition of moderate, mainstream politics that goes back to the Restoration in 1660.

"MPs need to remember that Britain, its people and its traditions are the mother of Parliaments. We ignore that and the will of the people at our peril."

He said there would be a "different tone" in British politics if Britain failed to leave the EU and predicted a "less tolerant society" and a "more nationalistic nation".

"It will open the door to extremist populist political forces in this country of the kind we see in other countries in Europe," he said.

His comments were condemned by pro-EU Tory former minister Anna Soubry and Labour former minister David Lammy.

Soubry, who was branded a "Nazi" and a "liar" by a mob who targeted her during live television interviews outside Parliament on Monday, described Grayling's comments as "irresponsible nonsense".

Lammy said: "This is a desperate attempt by a Government minister to use a tiny far-right minority to hold our democracy to ransom. It is gutter politics.”