Sturgeon welcomes prospect of general election before Christmas

Nicola Sturgeon has declared she would be “very happy” for a general election to be held before Christmas as she hit out at Boris Johnson over his Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

The Scottish First Minister branded it “bad” legislation as she said it would be opposed by the devolved administrations in both Edinburgh and Cardiff.

For the first time in the history of devolution, the governments in Scotland and Wales could both refuse formal consent for legislation that affects their nations.

Ms Sturgeon spoke out after MPs backed the Prime Minister’s Brexit proposals on Tuesday night.

His planned timescale for approving the Bill within days was rejected, however, forcing him to put a pause on the legislation.

Mr Johnson must now wait to hear from the leaders of the 27 other member states of the European Union on whether they will approve another delay to the UK’s departure date.

With the PM having pledged to deliver Brexit “do or die” by October 31, he is to push for a general election if they sanction a Brexit extension.

Ms Sturgeon, speaking in London, said: “I want to see a general election. I would be very happy to see that general election before Christmas but the circumstances of that have to be such that it doesn’t open the risk of a no-deal Brexit.

“And I think all responsible opposition MPs who want to see an election have a duty to make sure that that is the case.”

Ms Sturgeon, who gave a joint press conference with her Welsh Labour counterpart Mark Drakeford, highlighted the opposition to the legislation from both Scotland and Wales.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford held a joint press conference. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire/PA Images)

Speaking about the Bill, the SNP leader said: “This is quite simply a bad deal and a bad Bill.

“It is bad for Scotland, bad for Wales and bad for the UK.

“Indeed, the uniqueness of this event, the first ministers of Wales and Scotland, of different political persuasions, uniting in opposition to this deal is in itself a signal of how bad we believe it to be.”

She added: “As Welsh Assembly members made clear yesterday, and as I expect members of the Scottish Parliament will also make clear, we do not consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

“And when that happens of course it will be the first time in the history of devolution that both Scotland and Wales will have refused to give legislative consent to a Bill that affects us both.”

She said any extension to the UK’s EU departure should “be long enough to allow a general election or a referendum, or perhaps more realistically, the former leading to the latter”.

That she said “seems to me to be the only route out of this mess for the UK”.

Mark Drakeford also said he wants a general election, although he does not think “a position of complete clarity” has yet been reached on Brexit.

Today @NicolaSturgeon and I have written a joint letter to the PM urging UK Gov to secure an extension from the European Council that respects devolution and allows our legislatures to carry out their proper constitutional and democratic functions.

— Mark Drakeford (@fmwales) October 21, 2019

The Labour politician said: “I have always been agnostic on whether a general election or a referendum is the best way to get this decision put back in the hands of the people.

“But I’ve never been anything but clear that that should be the end, the end objective.”

He added: “What I want to see is this decision put back in the hands of the people who made it in the first place.

“If a referendum comes our way we should grab it with both hands. If a general election comes our way first, I absolutely want a general election.”

The press conference was held after the two first ministers jointly wrote to Mr Johnson and the president of the European Council asking for an extension to give more time to scrutinise the Bill.

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