The SNP has accused the UK Government of “wilfully damaging” the economy as Michael Gove admitted there will be “bumpy moments” in the aftermath of Brexit.
The senior Tory Cabinet Minister warned the UK would face “some disruption” despite securing a deal.
And Mr Gove also confessed many businesses still were not ready for the “practical and procedural changes” of Britain’s new relationship with Europe.
Speaking on Monday morning, the former Vote Leave co-chair admitted companies still had work to do to be ready for the end of the transition period.
He said: “Businesses will need to make sure that they’re ready for new customs procedures and we as individuals will need to make sure that our passports are up to date because they need to have at least six months before expiry on them in order to be able to travel abroad.
“I think lots of businesses are ready, particularly the larger businesses. Some smaller businesses will still want to do a bit more in order to be ready.
“We are there to help them and the advice that we’re giving, and also the money that we’ve invested in making sure that people can be ready for customs procedures, is designed to help.
“I’m sure there will be bumpy moments, but we are there in order to try to do everything we can to smooth the path.”
His comments have now been labelled an “understatement” by the SNP, who will not be supporting the Brexit deal.
SNP shadow chancellor Alison Thewliss MP said: “Michael Gove’s admission that the UK will face ‘some disruption’ and ‘bumpy moments’ as a result of this extreme Tory Brexit deal must be the understatement of the century.
“The Tory government is wilfully damaging people’s jobs, businesses and the economy at the worst possible time – during a global pandemic and economic recession.
“We know it could cut Scotland’s GDP by 6.1 per cent and cost us £9 billion – the equivalent of £1,600 per person.
“With every day that goes by, more devastating details emerge of the long-term damage this hard Tory Brexit will do to people’s incomes, living standards and our economy.
“If people and businesses are unprepared, it is because the Tories have left it to the last minute, on their own arbitrary deadline, and are now imposing a hard Brexit, causing months of uncertainty for those that rely on our relationship with the EU.”
Labour’s shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves accused the UK Government of ”treating its own incompetence as inevitable”.
She said: “There is no reason why the deal the Government ended up with had to be run so close to the wire, nor why this period must be bumpy had the Government prepared properly.
“But instead they refused to engage with business on preparations and dodged repeated questions from Labour for months on how many customs agents were recruited and ready, and what IT systems are properly in place.
“They should behave like grown-ups and take responsibility for governance.”
Mr Gove, who had been in charge of the no-deal preparations, was also forced to insist Boris Johnson’s deal was good for fishing after the chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations claimed they would now be “absolutely worse off”.
Andrew Locker accused the Prime Minister of “betraying” the industry, adding he was “angry and disappointed”.
Speaking to the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, he said: “Boris Johnson promised us the rights to all the fish that swim in our exclusive economic zone and we have got a fraction of that.
“We are absolutely worse off. When we were within the EU, we used to trade fish with the EU.
“We used to swap things we didn’t use with fish that they didn’t use and that enabled us to put together an annual fishing plan.
“What we have got now is a fraction of what we were promised through Brexit. We are going to really, really struggle this year.
“When Boris Johnson and his Government promised Brexit to the fishermen, he promised none of us would be worse off.
“There is a considerable amount of fishermen – small families, small communities – absolutely worse off by this deal.”
Defending the deal, Mr Gove said: “I don’t accept that. I think it is fair to say that we are in a stronger position than we were in the EU and in the common fisheries policy.
“In the common fisheries policy we were only able to access about 50 per cent of the fish in our waters.
“It is the case that we are now getting a significant uptick in that number, so we will have by 2026 about two-thirds of the fish in our waters.
“This staged process gives us a chance to increase the size of the fleet, to invest in our coastal communities, and, of course, in due course we will have that opportunity to increase that quota even further.”
His assertions come as MPs are set to vote through the deal on Wednesday in a special sitting of Parliament.
The Lib Dems are likely to join the SNP in opposing the deal, but Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has ordered his party’s MPs to back the “thin” treaty as the only other option is a no deal.
Some Labour MPs have pushed for the party to abstain on the vote so it can blame the Conservatives for any financial harm caused by Brexit.
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— to www.scotsman.com