Nicola Sturgeon describes UK Brexit plans as “economically catastrophic”

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 17 January 2017 in News

Theresa May reveals plans for Brexit do not include retaining membership of the European single market

Theresa May - credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire/PA Images

Nicola Sturgeon has described the UK Government’s Brexit plans as “economically catastrophic”, after Prime Minister Theresa May revealed her plans for Brexit do not include retaining membership of the European single market.

Providing 12 objectives to be pursued by the UK Government in Brexit negotiations, May outlined plans to leave the single market, end free movement of people and leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

May also warned EU leaders it would be a “calamitous act of self-harm” to punish Britain for Brexit, with the PM threatening to abandon talks if the deal on offer was not good enough.


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But while Ruth Davidson welcomed the speech, May’s plans faced fierce criticism from the SNP, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Greens and Scottish Lib Dems, with the FM warning “decisions are being driven not by the rational best interests of the country, but by the obsessions of the hard-right of the Tory party.”

With the Scottish Government having released a Brexit strategy – calling for either the UK or just Scotland to retain access to the single market – the PM also stressed the Scottish government's proposals would be considered as part of the Brexit process.

But while the PM committed to putting the final Brexit deal to a vote in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, she pointed to the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations as a mechanism for Scotland to “contribute to the process of planning for our departure from the European Union”.

Responding to the speech, the FM said: “Scotland did not vote for the direction set out in the Prime Minister's speech today – and it is not in our national interests.

“For all her warm words, it is now clear that the UK is heading for a hard Brexit, which threatens to be economically catastrophic.

“Decisions are being driven not by the rational best interests of the country, but by the obsessions of the hard-right of the Tory party.

“It is also becoming clear that a more fundamental issue is emerging – not just whether the UK is in or out of the EU, but what kind of country it is going to be. The Prime Minister gave the game away towards the end of her speech when she talked of the potential for the UK to become a low wage, low tax, de-regulated economy. That would see a race to the bottom replace our membership of the single market and everyone – perhaps apart from the very wealthiest – would be worse off as a result.”

Sturgeon added: “It seems the Westminster Tory Government now think they can do anything to Scotland and get away with it. They must start to understand how wrong they are. The UK Government cannot be allowed to take us out of the EU and the single market, regardless of the impact on our economy, jobs, living standards and our reputation as an open, tolerant country, without Scotland having the ability to choose between that and a different future.

“With her comments today, the Prime Minister has only succeeded in making that choice more likely.”

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said May’s Brexit plans were “clear and reasonable”.

She said: “It is now vital that we all pull together across the UK, to secure the best deal for all of us. There is no reason why both Britain and the European Union cannot emerge from the negotiations in stronger shape.

"The SNP should have the good grace to accept that many of its own demands - including the protection of workers’ rights, and the protection of rights for EU citizens in Britain and cross-border cooperation on tackling crime - have been recognised by the UK Government.

"Ever since the Brexit vote, the SNP has tried to use the result as an excuse for holding a divisive second referendum on independence.

“It has failed to persuade people in Scotland of that case. Now that the UK Government has spelled out this plan of action, that case has collapsed altogether.”

Meanwhile Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale claimed the speech was “designed more to appease the right wing of the Conservative Party, rather than one which put the best interests of the country first”. 

She said: "We were promised an outward-looking vision of a reformed nation, but instead we got a plan for a more insular nation. This isn't what many Leave supporters voted for.

"We are already a divided country, and after Theresa May's speech those divisions will increase. Once again the Tories have put the Union at risk by furthering the sort of divisions the SNP thrives on.”

Read Theresa May's speech in full.

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