Brexit: MSPs demand Theresa May takes No Deal off the table

A majority of MSPs today backed a Scottish Government motion demanding that Theresa May rule out a No Deal Brexit as the clock counts down until the UK departs from the European Union.

With only the Scottish Conservatives opposed, Holyrood voted by 87-29 in favour, with one abstention, for the UK Government to begin taking immediate steps to avoid No Deal as well as calling for an extension to Article 50 to find the best way forward to protect the interests of Scotland and the UK as a whole.

While MSPs were debating in Edinburgh, members of the National Assembly of Wales discussed an identical motion in an act of cooperation between the two devolved institutions described as unparalleled.

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A UK Government spokesperson insisted Mrs May’s deal was “a good one for Scotland, Wales and the whole of the UK”.

Nicola Sturgeon demanded a No Deal Brexit was ruled out. Picture: PA
Nicola Sturgeon demanded a No Deal Brexit was ruled out. Picture: PA

Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that “No Deal should be definitively ruled out”.

The First Minister warned the PM’s deal would be “disastrous”, saying that ending freedom of movement could cut the number of people working and paying taxes in the country, with the NHS and social care sectors particularly badly hit.

She added: “The deal on the table guarantees us more years of uncertainty during which Scotland’s interests will be at the mercy of a vicious, seemingly never-ending Tory civil war on Europe - one where I am afraid to say the extreme Brexiteers currently appear to be in the ascendancy.

“It could open up our markets to US produces which for very good reasons are currently banned and it will damage our economy, our living standards and our National Health Service.

“The Prime Minister’s deal would be disastrous and must be rejected by the House of Commons.”

She again made the case for a second vote on Brexit, insisting there was a “strong democratic case for that” as the Leave campaign had been “deliberately vague, some may say deceitful, about the form Brexit would take”.

The SNP leader said: “Simply pressing ahead with Brexit knowing we are heading for disaster makes no sense at all. After all, whatever most people voted for it certainly was not where we find ourselves now.

“A second referendum provides everyone with a second opportunity.”

Explaining why Scottish Conservative MSPs voted against the motion, Jackson Carlaw accused the SNP of using Brexit for its own political ends.

The interim party leader claimed Theresa May’s deal would provide a “smooth and workable” Brexit, had been backed by 27 other EU member states, and would lay the groundwork for a “strong and abiding friendship” with them going forward.

He said: “The number of people who voted to Leave was the largest number of people to vote for anything in our history.

“And while they have largely been forgotten in this place, let us not forget that they included one million people in Scotland – more than the number who voted for the SNP in the most recent Westminster election of 2017.

“Almost every study into the 2016 vote has shown that Leave voters knew exactly what they were voting for: to gain independence from supranational institutions and to get greater control of their community and our borders.

“And every fair analysis of the withdrawal agreement suggests that is exactly what Brexit is delivering. That, I would suggest, is why people who actually voted Leave still overwhelmingly stand by their decision.

“I believe that the Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration that goes with it are worthy of our support.

“Even a year or 18 months ago, a deal was far from inevitable. We now have it in our grasp.”

Scottish Labour voted in favour, along with party colleagues in Cardiff, with leader Richard Leonard calling for a People’s Vote.

Willie Rennie said he was “absolutely clear” that he wanted the UK to remain in the EU and called on Mrs May to hand the final decision “back to the people”.