Nicola Sturgeon heads to London in bid to force Brexit delay

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Nicola Sturgeon will step up efforts to “postpone” Brexit in talks with Theresa May today as the UK government’s agreement with the EU appears increasingly doomed to defeat in the House of Commons.

The First Minister will be in London seeking an “alternative way forward” for the country, with MPs expected to vote on delaying the Article 50 process that will take the UK out of the EU next March.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. (Photo by Andy Buchanan - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. (Photo by Andy Buchanan - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The Prime Minister is also facing a motion of no confidence in the event that her deal is rejected on 11 December, Labour has said. A defeat for Mrs May would prompt a general election. But Environment Secretary Michael Gove has insisted the government can win the Commons vote, despite scores of Tory MPs threatening to vote against it.

Ms Sturgeon will urge opposition parties in the Commons to use the parliamentary process to avoid both the current deal and the “cliff edge” no-deal scenario.

Nationalists will be among those who vote down the deal, but the SNP leader today insists she also wants to see the “article 50” process under which the UK leaves the EU to be put back. “The last week has been a watershed moment in the Brexit process,” Ms Sturgeon said ahead of today’s meeting.

“Having now finally published its own official analysis of the economic consequences of Brexit, the UK government can no longer hide behind their own spin – it is clear that any kind of Brexit will make Scotland and the UK poorer.

“The reality is the best deal is remaining in the EU, which is exactly what the people of Scotland voted for.

“With so much at stake for people’s jobs and living standards, it is vital that MPs come together to reject the PM’s deal, to rule out a No Deal Brexit and to secure an extension to Article 50.”

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MSPs at the Scottish Parliament will this week reject the Prime Minister’s Brexit proposals with the SNP, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens having a agreed a joint motion which both rejects the current plan, but also rules out a no deal Brexit.

“I hope the Westminster Parliament will follow suit,” the First Minister added. “As soon as the Prime Minister’s deal has been put to bed, all parties and MPs must come together to agree a better way forward.”

Pro-remainers such as the SNP leader object that the deal will take the UK out of the EU single markets and customs union while Brexiteers also oppose the agreement struck last month arguing it give too many concessions to Brussels.

Ms Sturgeon will also be in the House of Commons today where she will hold talks with SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who said yesterday a vote to postpone Brexit will be put to MPs and is attracting cross-party support.

“There’s quite a number of days for parliament to put down a motion to that effect and I believe that will be the case,” he told BBC Politics Scotland.

“We’ve expressed for a considerable period of time that we want Article 50 to be suspended.”

He added: “If you’re going to vote against Theresa May’s deal, if you’re going to vote to rule out a no deal scenario, then it’s common sense that you need to make sure there is time for a new proposal to be put forward in parliament, it will have to go to the people of Scotland and the United Kingdom. That means that we have to support postponing 50.

“The European Union recognises there’s a possibility of that coming and the European Union at least in the first case can agree to a suspension of that.”

Mr Blackford said he was supportive of a motion from Labour MP Hilary Benn which rejects Mrs May’s deal, but also rules out the prospect of no deal at all. “I expect when the Commons opens for business again on Monday SNP MPs will put their name to that amendment and I am calling on all members of parliament to consider backing that. That would rule out the risk of coming out of the European Union with no deal.”

Mr Gove, who was one of the leaders of the Leave campaign in the referendum in 2016, said the alternative to the deal struck by the UK government with the EU was either “no deal or no Brexit”.

“I reflected long and hard about this deal but I concluded, like lots of people, that while it is imperfect it is the right thing to do,” he told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show.

The Environment Secretary said the most difficult element of the deal was the Northern Ireland “backstop”, intended to prevent the return of a hard border with the Republic.

Brexiteers have warned that it could see the UK tied to EU customs arrangements for years with no exit mechanism, while negotiations continue with Brussels on a trade deal.

But Mr Gove insisted there was no incentive for the EU to prolong Britain’s stay in the backstop.