Scotland should have its own Brexit backstop says Sturgeon

First Minister believes NI would be at an advantage if it remained in single market

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Scottish National Party’s conference in Glasgow, Scotland on October 8th. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Scottish National Party’s conference in Glasgow, Scotland on October 8th. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

 

Scotland should remain aligned to European single market rules after Brexit under a deal similar to Northern Ireland’s backstop, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said. She said the proposed backstop would give Belfast a competitive advantage over Glasgow if Scotland was not allowed to follow the same path.

“If we are looking down the road to a situation where Belfast is still in the single market, and Glasgow is not, then any responsible first minister of Scotland is going to say ‘that’s a big worry for us’,” she told Sky News.

“So it just underlines this notion that however it happens over the next few years, whether it’s through a differential relationship with Scotland with the EU, or whether it’s around Scotland looking again at becoming independent and securing its relationship with the single market that way, it will become very important for us to find a way of doing it.”

The EU has made clear that the backstop, which is designed to guarantee that there is no hard Border in Ireland, must be confined to Northern Ireland and cannot be extended to other parts of the UK. Ms Sturgeon acknowledged the special circumstances surrounding the Border but said a Northern Ireland-only backstop worried her.

“I think it’s really important that a solution is found for Northern Ireland that resolves the Border issues, doesn’t compromise the Good Friday Agreement or the peace process. I don’t grudge Northern Ireland whatever it takes to do that. But if we end up in a situation where Scotland is not only being taken out of the single market but we’ve got Northern Ireland still in the single market, the implications for us in terms of attracting business and investment for our economy become really profound,” she said.

Movement from EU

Theresa May’s official spokesman on Monday played down expectations of an early breakthrough in Brexit negotiations, insisting there must be movement from the EU side for an agreement to become possible. He said there could be no legally binding withdrawal agreement without a precise political declaration about the future relationship between Britain and the EU.

“There is a difference between people talking optimistically about a deal and a deal including both the withdrawal agreement and the future framework actually being agreed. There remain big issues to work through and as the PM has said, this will require movement on the EU side. I would just make that point again that there can be no withdrawal agreement without a precise future framework,” the spokesman said.

Britain is due to bring forward its proposal for the backstop within the next few days, which is expected to accept that Northern Ireland alone should remain in regulatory alignment with the EU. Under the British proposal, the whole of the UK would remain in a “temporary customs arrangement” with the EU similar to the customs union.