Nicola Sturgeon warns no-deal Brexit would be ‘unforgivably reckless’

Nicola Sturgeon hit out at the UK Government’s “unforgivably reckless” stance on Brexit as she led calls from both Scotland and Wales to rule out Britain quitting the European Union without a deal in place.

Ms Sturgeon spoke as both the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly looked set to rally behind a plea for Theresa May to rule out no-deal and extend the Article 50 deadline beyond March 29.

Leaving the EU without any deal in place is an “avoidable outcome” which could only happen “by the choice of the UK Government,” the Scottish First Minister said.

She added: “It is unforgivably reckless.”

Speaking at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: “No rational government acting responsibly in the interests of those it serves would countenance leaving the European Union without a deal.”

With similar motions being debated in both Edinburgh and Cardiff, Ms Sturgeon noted: “This is the first occasion in 20 years of devolution that the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have acted in unison in this way.

“We have been brought together by our dismay, bordering now on despair, at the UK Government’s approach to and handling of Brexit.”

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Both motions make clear opposition to the UK’s Government’s proposed Brexit deal – which has not yet been approved by the House of Commons – and states that a no-deal Brexit would be “completely unacceptable”.

As well as calling on the Government to “take immediate steps to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal”, they also insist that the Article 50 deadline should be extended.

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.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “We need a deal that protects jobs, that best defends workers’ rights, that safeguards environmental standards and consumer interests, which is underpinned by a permanent customs union and – so critically – prevents a hard border in Ireland.”

Meanwhile Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie blasted the UK Government over its “display of incompetence of an historic scale”.

He said: “As the days tick down to the self-imposed deadline, still no one in the country knows what our fundamental relationship will be with our closest neighbours in just a few weeks’ time.”

Ms Sturgeon, Mr Harvie and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie all backed calls for a second Brexit referendum.

Mr Rennie argued: “This is one of the biggest decisions this country has ever faced and it is wrong to deprive the people of the final say.”

But Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw said: “The Brexit referendum in June 2016 was one of the largest exercises in democracy this country has ever witnessed.

“The number of people who voted to leave was the largest number of people to vote for anything in our history.

“And while they’ve been largely forgotten in this place, let us not forget that they included one million people in Scotland – more than the number who voted for the SNP in the most recent Westminster election.

“Too often, those one million Scots have been casually dismissed as either deluded, deranged or both. Their anger is very real.”