Clock ticking on hard Brexit ‘disaster’ says Nicola Sturgeon

Nicol Sturgeon said it was time for Prime Minister Theresa May to put jobs and living standards ahead of 'internal Tory party obsessions'. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Nicol Sturgeon said it was time for Prime Minister Theresa May to put jobs and living standards ahead of 'internal Tory party obsessions'. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
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Nicola Sturgeon has warned that time is running out to stop the “disaster” of a hard Brexit as she prepares to publish the Scottish Government’s economic analysis of EU withdrawal.

The First Minister claimed the “hard Brexiteers” had failed to explain how the UK would cope with the economic challenges of leaving the bloc.

She added that there was now a “golden opportunity” for moderates to keep Scotland and the UK in the single market and claimed that hard Brexiteers had missed their chance to deliver their vision of EU withdrawal.

Tomorrow will see the publication of Sturgeon’s “Scotland’s Place in Europe: People Jobs and Investment” document, which will define the Scottish Government’s approach to Brexit over the coming months.

Sturgeon said it was now time for Prime Minister Theresa May to put jobs and living standards ahead of “internal Tory party obsessions”.

The document’s publication comes as the SNP urges Labour to join a cross-party attempt to keep the UK in the single market and customs union after Brexit.

The SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Greens have joined forces to back an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill when it returns to the Commons this week.

If passed, the move would stop ministers being able to use so-called Henry VIII powers to take Britain out of the single market and customs union. The move follows a Brexit summit by the leaders of the four parties which Labour refused to attend.

Sturgeon said: “More than 18 months on from the Brexit vote, it beggars belief that the UK government is not only still unable to say what kind of relationship it wants with the EU, but has also failed to produce any meaningful economic assessment of the different possibilities. Bluntly, the hard Brexiteers have had their chance and failed.

“They have completely failed to explain how their approach could even remotely come close to replacing the enormous lost trade and investment of leaving the single market. That means there is now a golden opportunity for those moderate voices who are making the case for Scotland and the UK to remain in the single market. It will be a fundamental dereliction of duty as Prime Minister if Theresa May continues to pursue her red lines without providing information on their impact, and publicly discussing the options available.

 “Of course, there is no alternative arrangement that can deliver the jobs, people and economic benefit that come from remaining members of the European Union – but if the UK continues down the path of leaving the EU, it is the Prime Minister’s duty to do as little harm as possible to the economy. The Scottish Government is absolutely clear that, if the UK is indeed leaving the EU, then it must stay within the single market and customs union to prevent needless job losses and cuts in living standards.

She added: “There is zero credible evidence to suggest leaving the single market will bring any benefit to our economy. Indeed, as our analysis will show – the harder the Brexit the worse will be the outcome. With only around nine months left for the UK government to conclude negotiations with the EU, there is no time to waste.”

A UK government spokesman said: “We are seeking a deal that works for the whole of the UK, that delivers on the result of the EU referendum.

“Rather than trying to undermine the result of a democratic referendum, we urge the Scottish Government to work with us to ensure, as we leave the EU, we protect the UK’s vital internal market.”