Backing fudged Brexit deal would be dereliction of duty, Sturgeon warns MPs

MPs who vote a “cobbled-together” Brexit deal through Parliament would be guilty of a “dereliction of duty”, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.

The Scottish First Minister used a speech in London on Monday to urge Westminster politicians to vote down any compromise deal the Prime Minister can strike with Brussels.

She accused the UK Government of “threatening us with fire, to make us choose the frying pan”, and argued any deal is presented to the Commons was likely to be deliberately vague about the future relationship and damaging to the UK’s interests.

Ms Sturgeon told an audience at the Royal Society of Arts voting down the Prime Minister’s proposal would allow a deal keeping the UK in the customs union and single market – which the SNP wants – to be presented instead.

She said: “Voting against a bad or a blindfold Brexit deal isn’t a vote for no-deal. It would be a vote for a better deal.

“Indeed, voting against a bad or blindfold Brexit when the opportunity arises later this year is the only chance the House of Commons will have to reset these negotiations and to think again before it is too late.”

She said a “commonsense outcome” could be found and argued any “special relationship” between Northern Ireland and the EU strengthens the case for a similar differentiated deal for Scotland.

She added: “For MPs to support a bad or blindfold Brexit – a cobbled-together withdrawal agreement and a vague statement about our future relationship – would, in my view, be a dereliction of duty.”

In the June 2016 referendum, Scotland voted by 62% to 38% in favour of remaining in the EU.

As part of her speech, the First Minister presented a new paper from the Scottish Government – Scotland’s Place in Europe: Our Way Forward.

It noted the “core” of the proposal was the same as it set out in December 2016, of a preferred option of continued EU membership and also outlining an compromise plan to keep Scotland in the European single market and customs union.

Writing in her foreword to the paper, Ms Sturgeon said: “It is therefore simply incorrect for the Prime Minister to say that there is no alternative to Chequers.

“In fact, the UK Government’s position is increasingly absurd – insisting on pursuing proposals they have been told will not work while rejecting a plan that will.

“For the Prime Minister and the UK Government it is time to face reality. For MPs at Westminster it is time to come together in a commonsense coalition to minimise the Brexit damage.”

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: “We will have an ambitious course outside of the EU that enhances our prosperity and security and that genuinely works for everyone across the UK.

“We have put forward a precise and credible plan for our future relationship with the EU and look forward to continuing to engage with the EU Commission on our proposals.”

Nicola Sturgeon
Ms Sturgeon has said the SNP’s strong preference is to remain in the EU (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said there was “nothing new” in the First Minister’s speech and it is made in a bid to drum up support for Scottish independence.

“As ever, she is not intervening for the sake of a good Brexit deal, or for the good of the Northern Ireland border issue,” he said.

“If the SNP doesn’t back a deal, it is automatically supporting a no-deal scenario – something the nationalists have admitted would be bad for Scotland.

“And, of course, they don’t care if outcomes are bad for Scotland, so long as they’re good for the prospects of another independence referendum.

Ian Murray MP, co-chairman of Scottish Labour for the Single Market, backed the SNP’s support for remaining in the single market and customs union as the “least-worst” Brexit option.

He added: “Nicola Sturgeon’s suggestion of a differential deal for Scotland would move the Northern Irish problem to the border between Scotland and England.

“You can’t solve one problem by creating another – but we know this is part of the SNP’s drive for independence.”

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