Nicola Sturgeon has challenged Theresa May to dispel the cloud of secrecy surrounding the UK government’s position on Brexit, as she warned that her own administration would not be reduced to window dressing in a talking shop.
Giving her first full statement on the EU in the Holyrood chamber since the summer recess, Scotland’s first minister referred to comments May made earlier on Wednesday at prime minister’s questions.
Sturgeon said: I have been concerned by some of the comments made by the prime minister today, when she said she won’t have a running commentary on the negotiations. I accept that when negotiations are under way there are aspects that have to done behind closed doors. But I don’t think it is acceptable to have a cloud of secrecy hanging over the UK government’s negotiating position.
Citing the prime minister’s refusal to say whether the UK could remain in the EU single market after Brexit, during sustained questioning by the SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, Sturgeon went on: I don’t think it’s acceptable to have a prime minister who is unwilling or unable to answer the simple question, should we remain in the single market or not. The UK government I suspect is using phraseology like that to mask the fact that it doesn’t yet have a clue what it’s seeking to achieve.
During the statement, the SNP leader said that if the UK was indeed heading for a hard Brexit outwith the single market, this could compound the extraordinary self-inflicted blow to the UK’s competitiveness.
Sturgeon also repeated her condemnation of the UK government’s refusal to guarantee the status of EU citizens living in the UK since June’s vote, describing it as an utter disgrace.
Asked whether representatives of the Scottish government would be fully engaged in Brexit negotiations, Sturgeon admitted: The honest answer is that that remains to be seen. That was the commitment we were given. However, she warned the UK government that the Scottish government will not be window dressing in a talking shop of negotiations, and went on to describe her efforts to seek common cause with other parties in Holyrood, devolved administrations across the UK and indeed UK government ministers who favoured maintaining full access to the EU’s single market in goods and services.
Sturgeon also noted the reported comment from an aide to Jeremy Corbyn earlier on Wednesday, who suggested that the Labour leader wished to leave what he called the damaging single market, saying, I certainly hope that that is not the position of the Scottish Labour party.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale responded that Scottish Labour remained absolutely committed to the EU and single market and supportive of SNP efforts to retain both.
Sturgeon announced on Tuesday, as she set out her programme for government for the coming year, a consultation on a draft referendum bill so that it is ready for immediate introduction if we conclude that independence is the best or only way to protect Scotland’s interests.
On Wednesday, at the conclusion of her EU statement, she referred to the subject once again, saying that her determination to examine every option to protect Scotland’s interests must include the option to consider independence if it becomes clear that our interests cannot be protected within the UK.
To give up the right to even consider that option would be to accept that we are at the mercy of Westminster decisions no matter how damaging or destructive they are to our society, our economy and our place in the world. That is not a position anyone with Scotland’s best interests at heart should ever be prepared to accept.
News Source TheGuardianNews