Brexit: Nicola Sturgeon warns about ‘real and growing risk’ of no-deal as exit date edges closer

Government 'should acknowledge that the UK simply is not remotely prepared to leave the EU in 53 days' time', first minister says

Lucinda Cameron,Katrine Bussey
Tuesday 05 February 2019 00:16 GMT
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There is a “real and growing risk” that the UK will leave the European Union (EU) with no deal in less than two months’ time, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Scotland’s first minister said the UK should acknowledge that the UK simply is “not remotely prepared” to leave the EU in 53 days’ time.

Giving a speech at Georgetown University in the US, she again called for a second Brexit referendum.

She also addressed Scottish independence, arguing that the “confusion and uncertainty of Brexit” made it clear that Scotland’s national interests are not being served by a Westminster system which too often treats Scotland as an “afterthought”.

Ms Sturgeon said that the UK Government is trying to renegotiate the EU Withdrawal agreement “with the clock ticking” and despite the EU saying it will not accept such a renegotiation.

She said: “As a result of that, there is a real and growing risk that the UK will leave the EU in 53 days’ time without any deal in place. And that would be hugely damaging – far more so, dare I say it, than the Government shutdown you’ve just had here in the United States. In fact, some of the contingencies being considered – if we leave the EU without a deal – are genuinely astonishing.”

She added: “First, the UK Government should confirm that it will do absolutely everything to avoid the UK leaving with no deal. It should make clear it’s not prepared for the UK to leave the EU with no deal. And as part of that, it should acknowledge that the UK simply is not remotely prepared to leave the EU in 53 days’ time. That’s been obvious for a while now. So the UK Government should ask the EU to agree to put back the planned date for Brexit.

“The request for an extension of course must be accompanied by an achievable plan.”

She suggested that the UK Government could think again on plans to leave the single market and customs union but added that a “better option is to hold a further referendum on EU membership”.

Ms Sturgeon also warned that without free movement of people – something Theresa May has repeatedly ruled out retaining when the UK leaves the EU – there is a risk Scotland’s working population will go into decline, with this bringing with it “severe economic and social consequences”.

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The First Minister said that Brexit is also relevant to the debate on Scottish independence.

She said: “I as First Minister have said I will outline my thoughts on the timing of another independence referendum in the next few weeks – once the terms of Brexit have become clearer. But, amid the confusion and uncertainty of Brexit, one thing I think is clearer than ever. Scotland’s national interests are not being served by a Westminster system which too often treats Scotland as an afterthought, or too often sees our interests as not being material.

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“In my view, they can only properly be served by becoming an independent country. But an independent country that then seeks to play its part in an interconnected world. And that is a vision that I think more and more people in Scotland, in the wake of the Brexit experience, find very attractive.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “Nicola Sturgeon needs to stop using Brexit as an excuse to pursue her unwanted independence agenda. Rather than constantly seeking division and constitutional upheaval, she needs to work with the UK Government to avoid a damaging no-deal. That is what people and business in Scotland expect.”

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