Nicola Sturgeon to demand 'plan B' from Theresa May to avoid 'catastrophic' no-deal Brexit

Scottish first minister also warns of growing danger of a "blind Brexit" - ahead of talks with the prime minister in Edinburgh

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 07 August 2018 00:01 BST
SNP MPs walk out of PMQs as Ian Blackford is expelled from the chamber

Nicola Sturgeon will demand to know if Theresa May has a “plan B” to avoid a “catastrophic” no-deal Brexit when the two leaders meet today.

The Scottish first minister hit out at the prime minister’s strategy for withdrawing from the EU, ahead of welcoming her to Edinburgh to what looked likely to be frosty talks.

Ms Sturgeon attacked crashing out without an agreement as “utterly unacceptable” – but also warned of the growing and equal danger of what has been dubbed a “blind Brexit”.

This outcome would see the UK secure a withdrawal treaty but only a vague blueprint for a future trade deal, leaving the public in the dark about the country’s long-term economic prospects.

“Parliament cannot be asked to make the decision on withdrawal without details on what the future relationship will look like,” Ms Sturgeon warned.

“With the Chequers proposals falling flat, even if a withdrawal agreement can be secured, there is a very real risk that we end up with a blind Brexit – which will see the UK step off the cliff edge next March without knowing what landing place will be.

“That would do as much harm to jobs, investment and the economy as a no-deal Brexit and would leave the country directionless through the transition period.

"Given this lack of clarity and real concerns of no agreement, it is time the prime minister told us what her plan B is. We cannot have no deal and we cannot have a blind Brexit.”

The meeting comes amid an increasingly bitter war-of-words between London and Brussels about the growing likelihood that the negotiations will fail.

It also follows relations between the government and the SNP plunging to a new low, after nationalists staged a mass walkout from the Commons in June.

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, was expelled in a protest over what he called a failure to debate a Brexit “power grab” from Scotland.

Visiting Edinburgh, partly to mark the start of the Scottish capital’s annual festival, Ms May will seek to argue that Brexit can deliver a brighter future for the whole of the UK.

She will announce a £1.2bn city deal for Edinburgh and the southeast of Scotland, with both the Scottish and UK governments committing £300m towards this.

And she will confirm that two of the six new science centres being developed across the UK will be north of the border.

“As we leave the EU, the UK government is working in partnership with business, academia and the devolved administrations to create more good jobs and spread economic prosperity across the country,” the prime minister will say.

But the talks are certain to be dominated by Brexit and Edinburgh’s long-running criticism of London for ignoring its call for softer exit terms.

A looming Supreme Court ruling on the legality of the EU withdrawal act, after Holyrood voted to withhold consent, will determine the extent of the constitutional clash.

Ms Sturgeon added: “The whole of the UK deserves answers from the prime minister and we cannot continue without a backup plan.”

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