Nicola Sturgeon urged to back referendum on Brexit deal

The Liberal Democrats have called on Nicola Sturgeon to back a second referendum on leaving the European Union once the terms of a final Brexit deal are known.

The Lib Dems are pressing the First Minister to back a second referendum on the terms of a Brexit deal. Picture: John Devlin
The Lib Dems are pressing the First Minister to back a second referendum on the terms of a Brexit deal. Picture: John Devlin

Scottish party leader Willie Rennie said momentum is building behind the idea as he pressed Ms Sturgeon to support it during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood.

Mr Rennie attacked Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson for being “too embarrassed” to raise Brexit in the Scottish Parliament chamber on the day that Chancellor Philip Hammond visits Scotland.

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He said: “In June, Ruth Davidson said her priority was the EU single market but this week her five tests on Brexit adopt the language of (Ukip’s) Nigel Farage about rekindling trade with a British empire instead.

“It is clear they will sign up to anything on Brexit no matter how bad the deal. It is a blank cheque Brexit.

“The Scottish Conservatives may have given up but we have not. When the First Minister meets the Chancellor today, will she make the case for a UK-wide Brexit deal referendum so that the public can have a say on the final Brexit deal?”

Referencing his opposition to a second referendum on Scottish independence, Ms Sturgeon said it was “nice to hear Willie Rennie talk about the benefits of referendums for a change in this chamber”.

She continued: “Firstly, increasingly it is very difficult to distinguish between the Conservatives and Ukip and anybody in any doubt about that need only look this morning at what are reported to have been (Prime Minister) Theresa May’s views on denying education to children living here from certain other countries in certain circumstances.

“On the question of the single market, I am absolutely consistent in this, I think the UK should stay in the single market. I don’t believe there is any mandate or any economic, social or cultural justification for taking the UK out of the single market.

“I will make that point to Philip Hammond this afternoon as I have made that point to the Prime Minister and to others in the UK Government.”

Mr Rennie responded: “She didn’t quite answer my question. Momentum is building for this Brexit deal referendum so I hope in time she will come to support it.”

He repeated calls for the First Minister to use the Parliament’s new tax powers to increase income tax by 1p rather than “bitterly pointing the finger” at the UK Conservative Government.

Reminding Mr Rennie that the SNP won May’s Holyrood election on a manifesto setting out its income tax proposals, Ms Sturgeon added: “I will say very clearly to Philip Hammond this afternoon... that it is not acceptable that the Scottish Government budget will be reduced by £2.9 billion, 9% in real terms, by the end of this decade compared to when the Conservatives took office.”