Sturgeon: Brexit during pandemic ‘beggars belief’

First Minister said there was no deal better than being part of the European Union.

Sturgeon: Brexit during pandemic ‘beggars belief’ Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon has said the new Brexit deal strengthened the case for Scottish independence and criticised the timing of leaving the EU.

The deal means tariff-free trade will continue between the UK and EU, but puts up new barriers for business, such as checks on exports and imports.

The First Minister said leaving the European Union would cost Scottish jobs and said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had agreed to a “hard Brexit”.

She said: “It beggars belief that in the midst of a pandemic and economic recession Scotland has been forced out of the EU single market and customs union with all the damage to jobs that will bring.

“A deal is better than no deal. But, just because, at the eleventh hour, the UK Government has decided to abandon the idea of a no-deal outcome, it should not distract from the fact that they have chosen a hard Brexit, stripping away so many of the benefits of EU membership.”

She added: “Scotland did not vote for any of this and our position is clearer than ever. Scotland now has the right to choose its own future as an independent country and once more regain the benefits of EU membership.”

Scotland’s constitution secretary Mike Russell added: “I think the deal is a very bad deal.

“We’ve not had the courtesy of seeing the entire deal from the UK Government yet but on each of the sectors we looked at, it falls well short of what Scotland needs and could be possibly damaging. 

“The first trade deal in history when the negotiators are content with a worse deal than what they started with. 

“That will be bad for Scotland.”

A Brexit deal was agreed between the UK Government and the EU on Christmas Eve, just a week away from the final deadline.

A Downing Street source insisted that “everything that the British public was promised during the 2016 referendum and in the general election last year is delivered by this deal”.

They added: “We have taken back control of our money, borders, laws, trade and our fishing waters.

“The deal is fantastic news for families and businesses in every part of the UK. We have signed the first free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and zero quotas that has ever been achieved with the EU.

“The deal is the biggest bilateral trade deal signed by either side, covering trade worth £668bn in 2019.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said a good deal had been struck for Scotland.

He said: “This deal has been secured as a result of the hard work and commitment of the UK and European negotiating teams.

“Both sides recognised the importance of reaching agreement on a range of complex issues and avoiding a damaging no deal outcome. To have done so just in time for Christmas is great news.

“Crucially, this will protect Scottish jobs and our fishing communities will be far better off outwith the hated Common Fisheries Policy.”

Other Scottish political leaders disputed the UK Government’s claims, with Labour leader Richard Leonard saying “Boris Johnson’s irresponsible brinksmanship and his gross mismanagement of this process” had caused massive economic uncertainty.

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie echoed the sentiments, saying: “Boris Johnson has already caused huge damage by playing games of brinkmanship right up to seven days before the end of the transition period.

“There will now be some sense of relief that the dangerous prospect of crashing out with no deal has been averted. However, there is now no time for anything but the most cursory scrutiny in either Parliament.

“The country is being given a take-it-or-leave-it deal, but we won’t be able to debate the detail, and the one thing we know is that the cost of Brexit remains high.

“As well as the financial hit, the legacy of the UK Government’s reckless approach will live on, in the broken relationships with European partners, in the lowering of workers’ rights, standards and protections, and in the hearts of people in Northern Ireland and Scotland, who are badly let down by a Brexit they didn’t vote for.”

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