Prospect of UK staying in EU 'greater than at any point since referendum', Sturgeon says – The Independent


The chances of stopping Brexit and keeping the UK in the European Union are the greatest they have been since the Leave vote, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

With Theresa May currently facing a battle to get her proposed withdrawal agreement through parliament next week, the Scottish first minister said her party would do everything in its power to try to put the brakes on the process.

She spoke out the day after the Scottish parliament overwhelmingly voted against both the PM’s deal and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

Following that 92 to 29 vote in Holyrood, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called on the first minister to “reject all and every kind of Brexit”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I do oppose all and every kind of Brexit, I don’t want Brexit to happen, I want Scotland and the whole of the UK to stay within the EU.”

She added: “I do think there is a greater prospect of achieving that aim now than there has appeared to be at any time over the last two and a half years, which is why the SNP will do everything we can to bring that about.”

Mr Rennie said with the prime minister facing “certain defeat” on Tuesday in the Commons, he had “never felt more confident that we can stop Brexit”.

He hit out at the first minister for arguing for the compromise position of keeping the Scotland in the single market and customs union.

“We’ve got the Conservatives on the run, so we shouldn’t be hunting for a compromise that has already been discredited,” Mr Rennie said.


Philip Hammond has told MPs it is ‘simply a delusion’ to think a better Brexit deal can be renegotiated at the 11th hour

“Every kind of Brexit will damage the economy, that is why we should be opposing every kind of Brexit.

“I am frustrated I need to keep raising this with the first minister.”

Ms Sturgeon told him Tory ministers had already said the proposed withdrawal agreement, with its backstop arrangements for Northern Ireland, could give it an “unrivalled advantage” in attracting foreign investment.

“There’s the risk to Scotland in a nutshell,” she said.

“We want to stay in the EU but if that can’t be achieved we want to see solutions that do the least damage to Scotland.”

Speaking at first minister’s questions, she stressed the need for her government to consider “how you protect Scotland’s best interests in all possible circumstances”.

The SNP leader said: “If we can’t achieve keeping the UK in the EU then I have an obligation to look at what then best protects Scotland’s interests.”

She said the “worst possible situation for Scotland to be in” after Brexit would be for the country to “be at a competitive disadvantage with Northern Ireland, which is why we need to have at least the same relationship with the single market and customs union that Northern Ireland is going to have to have”.

Ms Sturgeon also told the Liberal Democrat: “Willie Rennie and I agree on the issue of Brexit, I do think it is regrettable that he keeps trying to find points of disagreement when actually it would be more powerful for us just to come together and unequivocally agree.”

If you want to read back on the day’s Brexit developments, please see our live coverage below.



What happens next with Brexit?

We are entering one of the most uncertain periods in the modern history of Britain, with even the most experienced politicians and commentators unsure of what the immediate future holds.

This article will help you get to grips  with some of the various outcomes from Brexit that the UK faces, and how we might get to them.


Philip Hammond warns no-deal Brexit will plunge UK into 1980s-style upheaval

Philip Hammond has warned that the upheaval after a no-deal Brexit will match that from the 1980s when entire communities were gutted as Britain’s economy transformed.

The chancellor also said the Treasury’s ability to undertake a “fiscal stimulus” – pumping taxpayer’s money into the economy to prop it up – would be severely limited due to the nation’s existing debts.

He warned there could be a decade of adjustment as industries tried to cope with no deal, something he branded “a terrible outcome for the UK economy”.


EU’s top court to rule on whether UK can cancel Brexit before next week’s vote on deal

The European Court of Justice will formally rule on whether Britain can unilaterally cancel Brexit ahead of the MPs vote on Theresa May’s deal next week.

The EU’s top court confirmed it will deliver its judgment at 8am UK time on Monday – with the landmark Commons vote scheduled for the next day.

Campaigners had asked the ECJ to rule on whether Article 50, which legally started the Brexit process, can be revoked by the country that triggered it. The text of the treaty clause is unclear and subject to dispute


Appearing on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, Theresa May indicated she would go ahead with the crunch Commons vote next Tuesday – despite reports this morning that members of the cabinet are urging the prime minister to delay the vote due to high probability of defeat in five days’ time.

 

She said: “We are in the middle of five days of debate in Parliament which will lead up to a vote on this issue.”

“There are concerns about part of that withdrawal bit of the deal, which is what has come to be called the backstop.

“I recognise that there are those concerns. Any deal, any agreement, any arrangement that we came to with the European Union would involve a backstop.

“So, people talk about, ‘let’s have a Norway, or let’s have a Canada’, everything involves a backstop. Secondly, none of the other arrangements that people have put forward fully deliver on the referendum. This deal delivers on the referendum.”

During the interview she also signalled that MPs would decide whether the UK went into a backstop or extended the transition period.

“There will be a choice between, if we get to that point, a choice between going into the backstop and extending the transition period,” she said. “Now, there are pros and cons of both sides of that. People have a concern of the backstop, that we could be in it indefinitely.

“But in the backstop we have no financial obligations, we have no free movement, we have very light level playing field rules with the EU. In the implementation period, we still have to negotiate the terms, but, there will be concerns about the fact that they would require, I’m sure they would require, some more money to be paid, for example. So there would be arguments on different sides.”

 


Breaking: The standards commissioner in parliament has ruled that Boris Johnson will have to make a formal apology to the Commons over the late declaration of nine payments amounting to over £50,000. ​

 

“The Commissioner found that Mr Johnson acted in breach of the House’s rules on the registration of his financial interests. She found that registrations were late on four separate occasions, involving nine payments, which suggested a lack of attention to, or regard for, the House’s requirements.

 

“The Commissioner therefore concluded the breach was neither inadvertent or minor. She was consequently unable to rectify the complaint, and referred the matter to Committee on Standards.

 

“The Committee concluded that Mr Johnson breached the rules of the House by failing to register remuneration within the required timetable on nine occasions. In considering the appropriate sanction it took into account what it considered to be aggravating and mitigating factors, and recommended that Mr Johnson make an apology to the House on a Point of Order.”

 


More voters than ever before think Brexit is a mistake, new poll finds

More voters than ever before think the decision to leave the EU was a mistake, a new poll has found.

Just 38 per cent of people believe the UK was right to vote for Brexit, while almost half (49 per cent) think it was the wrong decision. 

The gap is the widest recorded by YouGov since the referendum, while the number believing Brexit was a mistake is at its highest level and those thinking it was right at its lowest.


Steve Barclay – the new Brexit secretary – is making his debut in the Commons at Exiting the European Union questions. He told MPs there is “not an absolute guarantee” that the UK will continue to party to 40 trade deals signed by the EU with 70 countries.

 

He made the remarks after Hillary Benn – a Labour MP – asked Mr Barclay to give assurances to business that trade agreements would continue to apply post-Brexit. 


Andrea Leadsom – the Commons leader – is now speaking at business questions. She reiterates her opposition to producing government legal advice to Parliament – after Number 10 was forced to publish its advice on Wednesday.

 

She says she can confirm the meaningful vote will go ahead next week.


The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has insisted that the agreement with the PM was the only deal on offer – as MPs gear up to vote on the deal in five days’ time.

In a speech at the European Committee of the Regions, he said: “I must say once again, today, calmly and clearly: It is the only and the best possible agreement.”

He added that Brexit was a “lose-lose” situation and the deal was an exercise in “damage limitation”.


 

Downing Street has dismissed suggestions that the “meaningful vote” could be delayed from its scheduled date of December 11.

“The vote will take place on Tuesday as planned,” said a Number 10 spokeswoman.

 

 


Chancellor Philip Hammond is now opening the third day of debates on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. He says the deal offers a sensible compromise that protects the economy, but also delivers on the result of the referendum? “This is the right way to go,” he says. 

 

Hammond says at the beginning of the process there were those inside the EU who wanted to hand down a “punishment deal” for the UK. 

 

“This deal is the best deal for leaving the EU that is available or going to be available.

 

“The alternatives to this deal are no deal or no Brexit,” he says – echoing the prime minister’s warning of the risk of voting down the deal next week.

 

The chancellor also dismisses the idea that the Brexit deal can be renegotiated as “delusional”.

 

He adds that the “backstop remains as ultimate default”, but says the option remains on the table of extending the implementation period.


This is from my colleague Rob Merrick, who was at this morning’s Downing Street briefing for journalists:

 

The prime minister’s spokeswoman provoked confusion about the extent of the new offer the PM is willing to make to MPs, ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

Earlier, Ms May confirmed she was exploring how to bolster “the role of parliament” in deciding, in June 2020, whether the UK should extend the post-Brexit transition – beyond December 2020 – or enter the Irish “backstop”.

However, the spokeswoman said this did not stretch to seeking to reopen the withdrawal agreement, which the EU has also insisted is sealed and final.

“We have been clear that the withdrawal agreement is final and agreed,” she said.
It appears unlikely that many Brexiteers will be swayed by a stronger say in the 2020 decision, unless the agreement itself can be changed.

Crucially, it says the decision will be taken jointly by a committee of the UK and the EU – despite the prime minister calling it “a choice” for Britain.

Furthermore, as Philip Hammond, the chancellor, confirmed moments later, it will be the “default” to enter the backstop, at the end of the planned 21-month transition.

It also appears that, even if the transition is extended, the UK would automatically enter the backstop no later than the end of 2022 – the limit for any extension.

Asked about any new offer on the backstop, the spokeswoman said: “The prime minister is aware of the strength of feeling about this issue and is speaking to her colleagues to explain how parliament can have a greater say.”

It is understood the government is also exploring other possible concessions, to try to head off a devastating defeat next Tuesday.


This is from my colleague Ben Kentish on hints from the prime minister this morning that she intends to hand MPs that crucial decision to enter the “backstop” – a contentious part of the exit treaty that acts as the insurance policy against a hard border in Northern Ireland. But as he points out, there is a pretty big problem with that…


Tory MP Nicholas Soames – the great grandson of Winston Churchill, who voted to Remain – says the result of the referendum must be honoured. 

 

He leaps praise on the PM for the achieving the deal and her resilience. “If this deal is voted down, no other deal will miraculously appear,” he says. 

 

“It’s not a perfect deal and it was never going to be,” he adds. 

 

 


Boris Johnson weighs in on PM’s comments around possibly allowing MPs to decide between the backstop and extending the transition period.

 


The chances of stopping Brexit and keeping the UK in the EU are the greatest they have been since the referendum, Nicola Sturgeon has claimed.

The first minister spoke out the day after Holyrood overwhelmingly voted against both the PM’s deal and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I do oppose all and every kind of Brexit, I don’t want Brexit to happen, I want Scotland and the whole of the UK to stay within the EU.”

She added: “I do think there is a greater prospect of achieving that aim now than there has appeared to be at any time over the last two and a half years, which is why the SNP will do everything we can to bring that about.”


NEW: The Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd has resigned from his party’s whip, citing “irreconcilable differences” with the party’s position Brexit. This means the Lib Dems now have 11 MPs, instead of 12, in the Commons.

 

 

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “We respect what we know was a difficult decision for Stephen ahead of next week’s vote and are sorry to see him go.

 

“Liberal Democrats are clear that we will be voting against Theresa May’s deal. The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for an exit from Brexit and a People’s Vote where people can choose to remain in the European Union since the referendum was held. We will continue to fight for this in Parliament.”


Cabinet ministers have been seen going into No10, including Amber Rudd, Philip Hammond, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, and David Lidington. No word from Downing Street about the details of the meeting so far.

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The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.

Sign our petition here



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