While recent developments at Westminster, including the emergence of Boris Johnson as front-runner in the Conservative leadership race, have made a hard Brexit more likely, it has also increased the chances of no Brexit, it was claimed yesterday.
Speaking during a visit to the Royal Highland Show, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned of the “catastrophic damage” that a no-deal Brexit would wreak on the Scottish economy.
Ms Sturgeon said the chances of no-deal had been increasing ever since the European elections, Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation and the Conservative leadership election, which she said was between two fairly hardline Brexiteers with the front-runner “almost relishing the idea of leaving with no deal”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I think that that should worry everybody who understands the damage that would do to Scotland, to our economy overall – and particularly to sectors like agriculture. That said, I think the possibility of averting Brexit has also increased since the European election.”
The First Minister said if it was possible to get Jeremy Corbyn “off the fence” on the question of a second referendum, moves could be undertaken to build a consensus for gaining a majority in the House of Commons for a second referendum: “So we are in this perhaps rather strange situation where the risk of no-deal is rising, but the risk of stopping Brexit has also increased and there’s a real sense that that is up for grabs.”
Commenting on how much the Scottish Government could do to offset what she termed the “disastrous consequences” that a no-deal would deliver to many sectors, including agriculture and in particular sheep farmers who could face huge tariffs, Ms Sturgeon warned: “We will look to do whatever we can to help different sectors and different industries, but our first priority must be to do everything we can to avert a no-deal Brexit happening.
“But we’re not going to kid people on about the extent to which we can mitigate the damage of a no-deal Brexit – it would be catastrophic and if I say to people, ‘Yes, we can take away all of the damage of that’ then I’m not doing my duty in saying to people that it would be so serious that we need to double, triple, quadruple our efforts to stop it.”
l The First Minister also launched a food education programme designed to teach children and young people about Scotland’s food industry. The Good Food Futures programme, which is backed by £1 million of Scottish Government funding, aims to give children a greater understanding of where food comes from and the range of career opportunities available in the industry.
The programme will also include support for more farm visits, healthy cooking lessons and put more locally produced healthy food on school menus.