THE UK Government has come under fire for plunging businesses in Scotland into further uncertainty as Boris Johnson threatens to rip up the Brexit trade deal over the Northern Ireland protocol row.

The SNP described Tory threats to scrap the trade deal as a “further hammer blow” to thousands of Scottish businesses that rely on exports to the EU and are recovering from the pandemic. Exports to European countries are worth £16.4bn to the Scottish economy and the SNP has warned that a trade war with the EU would put Scotland’s world-class produce at risk.

SNP MSP Karen Adam said: “At a time when businesses across Scotland are just getting back on their feet, they are plunged into further uncertainty by the Tories in Westminster as they threaten to rip up the Brexit trade deal.

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“The trade deal was a disaster for businesses, it was not a good deal for Scotland. However, engaging in a full-scale trade war with the European Union would be a further hammer blow to businesses.

“Not only are firms just returning to normal trading since the pandemic, they are now being hit by the Tory cost of living crisis as they have to deal with sky-high energy bills and rocketing costs for raw materials.”

She went on: “Ripping up the trade deal would once again demonstrate that the Tories do not care about businesses in Scotland. They would rather prioritise their Brexit obsession.

“That is why the only way to protect the future of businesses in Scotland is in an independent country with a seat at the top table of the European Union.”

It comes as the DUP blocked the election of a Speaker at the Stormont Assembly in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol, sparking a new political crisis in the region.

The party’s leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said he is sending a “clear message” to the EU and the UK Government about resolving issues with the post-Brexit trading arrangement.

But Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill accused the DUP of “denying democracy”. The failure to elect a Speaker leaves the Stormont Assembly unable to function.

The 90 MLAs met for the first time in the Stormont chamber yesterday after last week’s Northern Ireland Assembly election saw Sinn Fein emerge as the largest party for the first time.

The first order of business was for MLAs to sign the roll of membership before an attempt was made to elect a Speaker. Two candidates, Mike Nesbitt of the UUP, and Patsy McGlone, of the SDLP, were nominated but did not receive the necessary support.

The DUP is also refusing to nominate for the position of deputy first minister, which will prevent the forming of a new executive, as part of its protest against the protocol.

Unionists oppose the post-Brexit treaty because of the economic barriers it creates between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Speaking shortly before the plenary session began, Donaldson said: “As I have made clear this morning we have taken the decision not at this stage to support the election of a speaker.

“I believe that we need to send a very clear message to the European Union and to our Government that we are serious about getting this protocol sorted out.

“Because of the harm it is doing damaging the agreements that have formed the basis of political progress in Northern Ireland, to our economy, contributing to the cost-of-living crisis, this matter needs to be dealt with.

“While others sit on their hands, we are not prepared to do that.

“We need decisive action taken by the Government.”

He added: “The choice is clear: if the European Union is serious about protecting the political institutions and the Belfast agreement, and its successor agreements, then they know what to do.

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“Equally the same message is there for our own Government as well.

“The ball is firmly at the foot of the Government.”

O’Neill told MLAs the public is hoping that Northern Ireland’s elected parties have “the maturity and courage” to take responsibility, adding that “there is absolutely no reason we should be in a rolling crisis, even for one second”. It is the job of politicians to “properly fund” the healthcare service and to agree a three-year budget and invest in the health service, O’Neill said.

“This is our hour of decision, not tomorrow, and not for a moment longer can the DUP deny democracy, punish the public, boycott this Assembly and executive, and prevent us from putting money in people’s pockets.”