Tom Gordon

Political Editor

MSPS will today question Michael Gove on the state of Brexit trade talks as UK and EU negotiators continue their work in Brussels.

The Cabinet Office Minister and key Leave campaigner is scheduled to give evidence to Holyrood’s Europe and External affairs committee this afternoon alongside some of his Brexit officials.

The SNP dubbed Mr Gove the “leader of the anti-independence campaign” and said he must explain why Northern Ireland stays close to the EU single market while Scotland still faces a no-deal or hard Brexit.

MSP Kenny Gibson, who sits on the committee, said: “Michael Gove has the perfect opportunity today to explain why his Tory colleagues were adamant that neither Scotland nor Northern Ireland should get a special deal yet Northern Ireland is now to have, in his own words, the ‘best of both worlds,’ and Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, is not.”

Boris Johnson and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen agreed on Sunday to “go the extra mile” in search of a trade deal ahead of the Brexit transition period ending this month.

The Prime Minister said no deal was the most likely outcome, forcing the UK to trade with the EU, the destination for 43 per cent of UK exports last year, on WTO terms involving high tariffs on goods

Differences remain over fishing, governance and a way to stop the UK diverging too far, in EU eyes, from future rules and regulations.

Ms von der Leyen said yesterday there had been “movement” in the talks, however a UK Government source said they remained “difficult”, without significant progress in recent days.

The House of Lords last night defeated the Government over the UK Internal Market Bill which is intended to harmonise trade within the UK after Brexit.

Critics says it would allow the UK Government to ride roughshod over devolution by effectively letting England set future regulatory standards, forcing Scotland and Wales to follow suit.

Peers voted 332 to 229, a majority of 103, in favour of allowing divergence from the rules through so-called common frameworks.

Independent crossbencher Lord Hope of Craighead, the former Lord President, said: “I am looking to the Government to facilitate the process by which an agreed decision to diverge… may be protected against the sharp edges of the internal market principles.

“I do not believe that in any way will disrupt the workings of the internal market.

“Indeed there are benefits by allowing the devolved administrations to develop their ideas in a way that is consistent with the internal market by the use of this process and the opportunity for divergence which it allows for.”

SNP Depute Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald said the Bill was “outrageous”, adding: “The Lords agree with us that this attack on devolution must be stopped.”