Nicola Sturgeon urges PM to ‘accept defeat’ on Brexit and change course

The Prime Minister must now accept defeat on her Brexit deal, Nicola Sturgeon said as she called on Theresa May to consider an alternative to "bullying" MPs into backing her proposals.

The Scottish First Minister, a prominent supporter of a second European referendum, said the beleaguered PM needs to "change course and open her mind to the right way forward".

Ms Sturgeon was speaking during First Minister's Questions, days after MPs again defeated Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement in a second meaningful vote in the Commons.

There was a further defeat for the Government on Wednesday night, when MPs rejected the possibility of a no-deal withdrawal from the EU.

Scottish Conservatives voted for the PM's deal on Tuesday, and most refused to sanction the removal of a no-deal Brexit – with only East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masterton doing so while Scottish Secretary David Mundell abstained.

Ms Sturgeon said their votes in the Commons mean "they are in fact failing Scotland".

She said: "Frankly it is deluded for anyone to suggest there is a majority support across Scotland for the Prime Minister's deal.

"There is not support for leaving the EU, there is certainly not support for leaving on the basis of such a profoundly bad deal.

"The Prime Minister's deal has been defeated overwhelmingly in the House of Commons, not just once but twice.

"It is time for her to accept that defeat and open her mind now to an alternative way forward.

"Let's get no deal properly off the table, let's seek a lengthy extension to allow this issue to go back to the people."

Ms Sturgeon was speaking after being pressed on comments her Brexit Secretary Mike Russell made on Twitter after Scottish Tory MPs voted with the PM on Tuesday.

Mr Russell hit out at the "#RagmanRoll" of Conservatives who had supported the "Prime Minister's awful deal which would cripple Scotland & their constituencies".

The term is used to refer to Scottish nobility and gentry in the 13th century who pledged allegiance to King Edward I of England.

Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw called on the First Minister to disassociate herself from the "inflammatory smear", saying Mr Russell had "accused those who backed the Prime Minister's deal as being traitors to Scotland".

He said: "There are many of us in Scotland, in politics and outside, who do back the Prime Minister's deal.

"Will the First Minister at least accept we think it is what is best for our country, and we do so in all good faith?"

With the UK still due to leave the EU is just over two weeks, Ms Sturgeon responded: "I genuinely am struggling to believe that Jackson Carlaw is coming here to talk about a Twitter hashtag, when the Government led by his party is in meltdown, is a shambles, and is taking this country ever closer to the cliff edge.

"If every single SNP MP had voted for the Prime Minister's deal on Tuesday night it would still have gone down to a heavy defeat because she has not managed to persuade those in her own party, let alone anyone else.

"I spent two years, more than two years, suggesting compromise to the Prime Minister, single market, customs union, compromise.

"That was cast aside, ignored and dismissed as every single vote in this Parliament on the issue has been cast aside, ignored and dismissed by the Tory Government.

"The way forward now is to put this issue back to the people. Parliament has failed to resolve this issue and if Parliament can't decide, the people should. That is what I think is the way forward.

"And it is a better way forward than the Prime Minister trying to bully the House of Commons into accepting a bad deal.

"She should accept defeat, change course and open her mind to the right way forward."