Sturgeon urges Scotland to take ‘different path’ to May’s Brexit

LONDON: Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland “can choose a different path” as Britain prepares to leave the European Union, ahead of a vote on Brexit in Scotland’s devolved parliament on Tuesday.
The Scottish parliament and a devolved Welsh assembly will hold simultaneous votes on declaring their “opposition to the damaging EU exit deal” agreed by Prime Minister Theresa May for Britain to leave the bloc on March 29.
In an SNP statement, Sturgeon, who also heads the Scottish government, said recent legislation passed under devolved powers” shows how Scotland can choose a different path and create a more equal and prosperous country, with fairness at its core.” “Imagine what more we could do if we held the full range of powers of independent parliaments,” she said.
Tuesday’s votes in Scotland and Wales create “an unprecedented event,” said Mike Russell, the Scottish government’s constitutional relations secretary.
“We are taking this historic step to send a strong message to the UK government that it must stop pursuing such a disastrous course of action,” Russell said.
“The prime minister’s deal will cause major, lasting damage to jobs, living standards and public services such as the NHS, and should be voted down,” he said.
Russell said his government supports extending the Brexit negotiations beyond March 29 to “allow time for agreement to be reached on a better way forward, which the Scottish government believes should be a second EU referendum with Remain on the ballot paper.”
On Tuesday, May’s top government lawyer left for Brussels in a last-ditch bid to secure changes to get her Brexit deal through parliament and smooth Britain’s departure from the EU.
Britain is due to leave the EU in 24 days, but parliament’s rejection of May’s deal earlier this year has put in doubt how, when or possibly even if Britain’s biggest foreign and trade policy shift in more than 40 years will take place.
May has charged her team, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Brexit minister Stephen Barclay, with securing changes to the so-called Irish backstop, an insurance policy to prevent a “hard border” between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland if a future trading relationship falls short.
Cox and Barclay will hold a 90-minute meeting with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and other officials from the bloc on Tuesday, followed by further discussions over dinner.
They are hoping to build on what May’s team calls “progress” in talks to find a compromise that would rule out Britain leaving without a deal, a nightmare scenario for many businesses.
“We all want to leave at the end of this month and it depends how quickly we can get a deal through,” foreign minister Jeremy Hunt told BBC radio, describing the situation as having been “transformed in a positive direction” over the last month.
“Our ask of the EU is an important ask… but it is one ask and it’s a simple one. We need substantive changes that will allow the attorney general to change his advice to the government that says that, at the moment, theoretically, we could be trapped in the backstop indefinitely.”
May has struggled to convince the EU that she can get the deal through a deeply divided parliament in London, where members of parliament are increasingly flexing their muscles to try to influence Britain’s departure from the bloc.
She has offered MPs the chance to seek to prevent a no-deal departure and to delay Brexit if parliament rejects the deal in a vote she has promised to hold by March 12. Both British and EU officials have said any delay would not be lengthy, probably for a few months. — dpa/Reuters