IF Scotland had the option of a similar deal to the Northern Ireland Protocol the Government would “take it in a heartbeat”, the First Minister has said.

It comes after the EU threatened fresh legal action against the UK over their plans to unilaterally scrap parts of the Brexit agreement.

Tariffs, a trade-war and the suspension of the whole Brexit agreement are on the cards if no resolution is found to the dispute and the UK presses ahead with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which will effectively rip up key parts of the deal signed by Boris Johnson and the EU in 2019.

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And in Holyrood on Thursday, the First Minister was asked by Green MSP Maggie Chapman what the Scottish Government’s analysis on the risks of this move would be on Scotland’s economy.

Nicola Sturgeon said that the Scottish Government was not consulted ahead of the UK’s divisive action, adding that it risks a “hugely damaging self-inflicted trade war in the middle of a cost of living crisis”.

The FM added that the move may “very well break international law”, something which chief EU negotiator Maros Sefcovic has echoed, dubbing it “illegal”.

Sturgeon continued: “The UK Government is risking sanctions like targetted tariffs that would deeply harm Scottish businesses who are already dealing with an uncertain and unnecessarily bureaucratic environment thanks to Brexit.

The First Minister was asked for her take on the current row emerging between the EU and UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol BillSefcovic said the UK's plans are "illegal"

“It's also very likely that it will end discussions across a range of other important issues including access for our scientists and researchers to the EU's horizon programme.

“Brexit has already made the cost of living crisis much worse but by sparking a trade war, the UK government risks exacerbating that crisis significantly and I hope common sense and decency on the part of the UK Government quickly prevails.”

Chapman said that some businesses in the north east, where she is a regional MSP, have simply stopped trading internationally due to the impact of Brexit.

She continued: “What can we do to ensure that any actions by the EU in response to the UK riding roughshod over international treaties does not further damage Scotland's economy?

“And does she agree that independence for Scotland is now very clearly the best route to our country's position as an outward looking, international, responsible European nation?”

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The FM responded: “The Northern Ireland Protocol, let us not forget, was negotiated and signed by the UK Government, it is also a protocol right now that is benefiting Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland's economy right now is doing better than the economies of the other countries in the UK.

“As First Minister of Scotland, if I could get a protocol that would allow Scotland to continue to trade freely across the single market, I'd take that in a heartbeat. That is the reality.”

Sturgeon then quoted a part of Christopher Geidt, the Prime Minister’s former ethics adviser who resigned on Wednesday, where he said he was tasked with offering an opinion on something which could risk “ a deliberate and purposeful breach of the ministerial code”.

The FM said it wasn’t clear if this referred to the Northern Ireland Protocol, but it “may be”.

The First Minister was asked for her take on the current row emerging between the EU and UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol BillNicola Sturgeon said if she had the option of a Protocol equivalent she would 'take it in a heartbeat'

She continued: “That is what the UK Government is now behaving like.

“Can I finally, well actually slightly disagree with Maggie Chapman, I don't think it is the case that independence is the best way for us to secure our status in the European Union as an outward looking country, I think independence is now the only route to doing that.”

As well as new legal action for alleged failures to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol as it stands, Sefcovic confirmed that existing infringement proceedings which had been paused while UK-EU talks took place would now be resumed.

Sefcovic said the UK’s move had “no legal or political justification”.