EDINBURGH The United Kingdom's exit from the European Union will be so damaging that it will try to rejoin in 20 years, Scotland's Brexit minister said on Thursday.
Michael Russell told a Scottish parliamentary committee there was a high chance that Brexit talks would fail soon and that the bill for Brexit was the biggest stumbling block.
Britain is about to enter negotiations with the EU over the terms of its exit, due in March 2019, though relations with Brussels have been overshadowed in recent weeks by a public display of brinkmanship.
"I actually think in 20 years time, if the UK does come out, in 20 years time the UK will be in the process of trying to be back in and it will have lost 20 years of influence and progress," said Michael Russell, whose formal title is Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe.
"It is that foolish."
The June 23 Brexit referendum called the future of the United Kingdom into question because England and Wales voted to leave but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay.
Since then, the pro-independence Scottish government's proposals to keep Scotland in the single market after the United Kingdom leaves were rejected by London as unworkable, and relations have been strained.
(Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)