Scotland should have its own Brexit backstop: Sturgeon

LONDON: Scotland should have its own version of the Brexit “backstop” plan that the European Union and United Kingdom are trying to agree for the border with Ireland, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said on Monday.
The so called “backstop”, which seeks to find a way to avoid checks on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland if there is no overall exit deal, has become the biggest sticking point in Brexit negotiations.
Under the disputed “Irish backstop” protocol of the largely completed draft withdrawal treaty, if Britain and the EU have failed to agree an open-borders EU-UK trade deal by the end of a transition period in 2020, Northern Ireland — but not mainland Britain — would remain de facto inside the EU economic space.
Sturgeon said such an arrangement would put Scotland at a disadvantage to Northern Ireland. Asked if a version of the Irish backstop should apply to Scotland, she told Sky News: “That would be my position.
“If we are looking down the road to a situation where Belfast is still in the single market, and Glasgow is not, then any responsible first minister of Scotland is going to say ‘that’s a big worry for us’.”
‘BIG ISSUES’: Meanwhile, Britain said on Monday there were still “big issues” to resolve in Brexit negotiations with the EU, seeking to dampen growing talk of a breakthrough ahead of a crucial summit next week.
“We have always said that we are working hard for a deal this autumn and that continues at pace,” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman told reporters. “There remain big issues to work through and as the prime minister has said, this will require movement on the EU side.”
He said officials from both sides are holding technical discussions in Brussels this week, but Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab is not currently planning to attend.
“There is a difference between people talking optimistically about a deal, and a deal including both the withdrawal agreement and the future framework actually being agreed,” he said.
Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said on Sunday that the text of the withdrawal agreement was “90 per cent agreed”, although the Irish border issue remains a sticking point.
“What is needed now is the two negotiating teams need to lock themselves in a room for the next 10 days or so,” Coveney told Sky News.
 — Reuters/AFP