Nicola Sturgeon has called on Theresa May to change course in order to avoid an “utterly disastrous” no-deal Brexit if the Prime Minister’s plans are rejected by MPs in a crunch vote on December 11.
The First Minister called for the UK’s departure from the European Union to be delayed in order to find a “workable alternative” to May’s Brexit deal, which faces widespread opposition in the Commons.
In response, May urged the FM to listen to Scottish business chiefs and back the deal or risk going back to “square one”.
Sturgeon said: “I used today’s meeting with the Prime Minister to reiterate that it cannot – and must not – be a false choice between her proposed deal and a no-deal outcome, which threatens to be utterly disastrous for jobs, business and living standards.
“Instead, there must be a recognition that, if the PM’s deal is defeated in the Commons as is widely expected, then a workable alternative is urgently needed.
“That means there should be an extension to the Article 50 process, and we will join with those from other parties in trying to secure such an extension.”
May had earlier insisted she’ll still be Prime Minister in two weeks time despite her Brexit deal facing near certain defeat in the Commons.
Even the ultra-loyal David Mundell refused to say if he thought the Tory leader would still be in a job if she lost the vote.
What little hope the Prime Minister might have had for victory took another knock yesterday with Eurosceptic Tory MPs infuriated after the publication of a summary of the Brexit legal advice given to ministers.
It made clear that the Government knew the deal they’d signed up to, and want Parliament to back, would mean the Northern Ireland backstop would continue indefinitely “unless and until” the UK and the EU both agreed it should end.
The summary also infuriated opposition MPs as last month they’d voted to demand the release of the full legal advice given to Cabinet by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, saying it was imperative Parliament was fully informed before the vote.
Instead, what they got was just a short, legalese-heavy overview.
Labour, the SNP, the DUP, LibDems, the Greens and Plaid Cymru have now written to Speaker John Bercow telling him ministers have failed to comply with MPs wishes, and asking him to have the Government found “in contempt” of Parliament.
There are eight days to go until the vote, and May needs at least 320 MPs to back her, but with 399 expected to vote against, she is currently 90 short.
Mundell, speaking after giving a Brexit briefing to Scotland’s leading financial service companies in Edinburgh, said he couldn’t “see any circumstances where Article 50 should be extended, it’s just extending the uncertainty, the division and the confusion”.
He added: “I can see quite clearly that’s something that would appeal to Nicola Sturgeon because she’s now promoting a no-deal scenario because she believes that chaos and division is the best backdrop for having another independence referendum.”
Asked about May’s prospect if defeated, Mundell said: “Wider
speculation isn’t in any way helpful. It’s a big week, there’s going to be five full days of debate.
“I’m confident, still, that we can get the deal through next week.”
May herself was asked if she would still be in a job if she failed to win the vote while appearing on ITV’s This Morning.
“I will still have a job in two weeks’ time,” the Prime Minister told Philip Schofield.
“My job is making sure that we do what the public asked us to, we leave the EU but we do it in a way that is good for them.”
May did not explain what would happen to her if her deal fails, instead saying: “I’ve got a duty as Prime Minister to deliver on what people voted for.”
Asked if she would resign if the Commons rejected her Brexit deal, May said: “I’m focusing on, you know, getting that vote, and getting the vote over the line.”