SNP dual strategy backs ‘softest’ Brexit and People’s Vote

Scottish Government ministers and officials are examining the detail of proposals for a “Common Market 2.0” exit from the European Union in a bid to reach a compromise on Brexit tomorrow.

MPs will hold a second round of votes on alternative Brexit plans on Monday, after the government’s Withdrawal Agreement was defeated for a third time on Friday.

One of the proposals, put forward by the Conservative backbencher Nick Boles, has been scrutinised in Edinburgh over the weekend, Scotland on Sunday was told.

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The SNP added its support to the cross-party Boles plan following Friday’s vote, to help ensure that it is selected for debate and vote by Commons Speaker John Bercow tomorrow.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with her team of Westminster MPs. Picture: Ben Cawthra/Rex/Shutterstock.First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with her team of Westminster MPs. Picture: Ben Cawthra/Rex/Shutterstock.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with her team of Westminster MPs. Picture: Ben Cawthra/Rex/Shutterstock.

None of the eight options put before MPs in a previous round of votes on Wednesday received a majority, with Common Market 2.0 emerging as the third most popular option after falling by 94 votes.

However, the SNP was criticised for abstaining on the Boles plan despite it holding out the prospect of the UK remaining within the EU customs and single market regimes – objectives set out in the Scottish Government’s own Brexit policy document Scotland’s Place In Europe.

The SNP said it withheld its support because of a lack of clarity in the text of the Boles motion about the depth of the UK’s future customs relationship with the EU, and because it cast doubt on the continuation of the free movement of people.

Wording of the motion has now been changed to remove any qualification on free movement and specifying the need for “frictionless agri-food trade” between the UK and EU.

Boles said: “[I] strongly welcome this indication of SNP support for Common Market 2.0.

“We have modified the motion in response to their concerns. I hope they feel able to vote for it on Monday.”

The Tory MP has been in talks with Scottish parliamentarians including ones in the SNP since last year, as Scotland on Sunday reported in November.

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Paul Masterton, the Scottish Tory MP who resigned as a parliamentary ministerial aide to vote for a delay to Brexit earlier this month, voted for the Boles plan on Wednesday.

An SNP source said the party was not guaranteed to vote for the Boles plan tomorrow, but wanted it to emerge as the top “soft Brexit” proposal, ahead of a plan put forward by fellow Tory backbencher Kenneth Clarke, which only suggests customs union membership without the single market. It was defeated by just six votes.

However, the nationalists believe they are now in a position to either prevent Brexit or force a second EU referendum. They will focus their efforts on those aims in the two weeks before a crucial Brussels summit that will likely see a further long delay until the end of the year forced on Theresa May.

Ahead of tomorrow’s votes, the SNP MP Joanna Cherry has also put forward a revised plan to revoke Article 50 and stop Brexit entirely if a no-deal scenario becomes inevitable.