Holyrood and Cardiff both vote against no-deal Brexit

The First Ministers of Scotland and Wales have joined together to tell the Prime Minister her “reckless” behaviour over Brexit “must stop now”.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford spoke out after politicians in Edinburgh and Cardiff took a “united and historic step” to vote against both Theresa May’s withdrawal deal and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

In a debate at Holyrood Ms Sturgeon had insisted that this would be “unforgivably reckless”.

Afterwards the two first ministers said: “For the first time in the 20-year history of devolution, the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament voted simultaneously to oppose a damaging no-deal Brexit.

“The vast majority of members across both chambers voted in agreement that a n-deal outcome would be completely unacceptable and that an extension to Article 50 is the best way forward to protect Wales, Scotland and the UK as a whole.”

They added: “No-deal would mean not just probable short term chaos, but also very real and long-term structural damage to our economy.

“Damage which would mean fewer jobs, lower wages and less tax revenue.

“The motions in both the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales also reiterated opposition to the deal negotiated by the Prime Minister which would do significant damage to both countries.

“This united and historic step was taken to send the clearest possible message to the UK Government and Westminster that this reckless course of action must stop now.”

In Edinburgh MSPs overwhelmingly passed a motion stating this by 87 votes to 27 with one abstention, while in Cardiff a similar motion was approved by 37 votes to 13.

Politicians in both places had united in a bid to put more pressure on Mrs May – who faces a series of crunch votes on her Brexit deal in the House of Commons next week.

Mark Drakeford
Mark Drakeford

But Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford said: “We take little comfort from the sequence of votes planned to take place in the House of Commons next week, when a vote on extending Article 50 will be held only after another attempt to browbeat Members of Parliament into supporting the Prime Minister’s deal and a vote to support no-deal.

“We are just 24 days away from crashing out of the EU. The Prime Minister’s attempt to run down the clock must be resisted at all costs.”

Earlier the two politicians had set out the reasons for the unprecedented joint vote, with both leaders saying: “We have been brought together by our dismay, bordering now on despair, at the UK Government’s approach to and handling of Brexit.”

Speaking at Holyrood Ms Sturgeon insisted a no-deal Brexit was an “avoidable outcome” which could only happen “by the choice of the UK Government”.

She stated: “No rational government acting responsibly in the interests of those it serves would countenance leaving the European Union without a deal.”

She told MSPs that this was “the first occasion in 20 years of devolution that the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have acted in unison in this way”.

Mr Drakeford said: “By acting uniquely in this way, we hope that our votes tonight will put further pressure on the Prime Minister to do the right thing, to live up to the responsibilities that have been placed in her hands and in a way that stands up for working people in Scotland and Wales.”

In a message from @NicolaSturgeon read out by @FMWales in @AssemblyWales she says “we have been brought together by our dismay – bordering now on despair– at the UK Government’s approach to Brexit” pic.twitter.com/Q4Qop6ehgy

— Welsh Government (@WelshGovernment) March 5, 2019

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “An orderly Brexit is in the UK’s best interests and the best way to achieve that is for MPs of all parties to support the Prime Minister’s deal.

“The deal is a good one for Scotland, Wales and the whole of the UK – it delivers the result of the referendum, gives us a close future partnership with the EU, and guarantees citizens’ rights.

“Refusing to support the Prime Minister’s deal simply makes a damaging no-deal more likely.”

Ms Sturgeon however criticised the Prime Minister for “showing no decisive leadership whatsoever” in the midst of Brexit “chaos”.

She added: “Instead of doing the right thing and ruling out a no-deal exit at any stage, she insists on freewheeling the car ever closer to the Brexit cliff edge.

“She is trying to run down the clock, making on an almost daily basis undeliverable promises to hardline Brexiteers and more recently offering tawdry, half-baked bribes to Labour MPs.”