Theresa May must accept her “enormous folly” of hoping that a trade deal with Donald Trump could replace trade and jobs lost by leaving the single market and customs union after Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The comments from Scotland’s First Minister and SNP leader come after an extraordinary transatlantic row between the Prime Minister and the US President after Mr Trump retweeted Islamophobic videos from the far-right organisation, Britain First.
After Ms May said it was “wrong” for Mr Trump to have posted the discredited videos, the US President then publicly rebuked the Prime Minister on Twitter.
Referring to Ms May’s appearance with Mr Trump at the White House shortly after his inauguration as President, the Scottish First Minister wrote in a article for The Guardian: “The Prime Minister of course rushed to extend the hand of friendship – literally – to Trump when he was elected, and she is right to ensure the deep, longstanding links between these islands and our friends in the US endure.
“But surely she must now accept the enormous folly of hoping that a trade deal with the Trump administration will somehow come even close to replacing the lost trade, jobs and investment caused by taking Britain out of the EU single market and the customs union”.
In the article on Saturday, Ms Sturgeon also called on the Government to negotiate a deal with the bloc that “limits the damage as much as possible” after Brexit and said the Prime Minister should agree to a transition period inside the customs union and single market.
She added that the transition period must not be a two-year postponement of “falling over a Brexit cliff edge”.
Ms Sturgeon said it was time to banish language that “characterises the EU as our enemy” and approach the next phase of talks in a spirit of cooperation and solidarity.
Ms Sturgeon said she remained “firmly opposed” to Britain leaving the EU, describing Brexit as a “monumental act of social, economic and diplomatic harm”. She added: “If Brexit is to happen, then it must happen in a way that limits the damage as much as possible.”
She said that decisions so far had been taken in the interests of “appeasing Tory Brexiter backbenchers”, but said that it was now time for the economy to come first.
European Council President Donald Tusk has given Ms May until Monday to come forward with an improved offer on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal, including the “divorce bill” and future citizens’ rights, as well as the Irish border, if there is to be progress at the December summit.
In her article Ms Sturgeon added: “The Prime Minister needs to come away from the EU summit with a clear agreement to move into trade talks and a clear statement that transition will mean remaining in the single market and the customs union – nothing less.
“Warm words and cryptic soundbites will not suffice when companies are beginning to make real decisions that will impact on people’s jobs. And that transition must not be simply a two-year postponement of falling over a Brexit cliff edge. It is an opportunity to recognise a better way forward.”
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