News | Published October 18 2019

SNP to push for Brexit extension and national poll

The SNP will call for a three-month extension to the Article 50 deadline in Saturday’s historic sitting in the House of Commons, paving the way for an early general election.

SNP leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, has put forward an amendment to Saturday’s parliamentary motion, rejecting the new Brexit deal negotiated by prime minister Boris Johnson and calling for an extension until January 31 2020.

Johnson has already said he is “very confident” that MPs will rally behind his “great new deal” and “take back control” by breaching the longstanding deadlock in Parliament.

However, there is lingering doubt over whether the deal, announced by Johnson and EU leaders on Thursday morning, will pass through the Commons, with the DUP having said they are still unable to approve it.

Blackford said that the deal would be “a disaster for Scotland”, while Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has raised concerns that Johnson’s deal will culminate in a “much harder Brexit” than that in Theresa May’s previous withdrawal agreement.

Sturgeon added that the SNP “will not vote for Brexit in any form”.

Speaking to the BBC, Blackford said that “all 35 SNP MPs” will be present in Westminster and will “certainly be voting against” Johnson’s deal.

Blackford said: "This [deal] is a disaster for Scotland. It weakens our economy, takes us out of the European Union, takes us out of the single market and the customs union.”

He then implored opposition parties to “back our amendment and finally act to bring this appalling Tory government down and stop Brexit”, calling on Labour not to be “the midwife” to a Conservative Brexit.

Blackford added: “It won’t be the end of the road if it goes through…but it would be very significant…and pretty devastating if the government were to get this through on a small number of Labour votes.”

Sturgeon has also made a point of Scotland “being treated unfairly” over Brexit, with 62 per cent of Scottish voters opting to Remain in the 2016 referendum.

Speaking on Thursday, Sturgeon said: "We support efforts to ensure peace and stability on the island of Ireland, in line with the Good Friday Agreement, which must be respected.

"At the same time, it cannot be right that Scotland alone is facing an outcome it did not vote for.

“The Brexit envisaged by Boris Johnson is one which sees a much looser relationship with the EU when it comes to issues like food standards, environmental protections and workers' rights. That is not the future that I or my government envisage for Scotland.”

Sturgeon went on to say that she will push for a second independence referendum for Scotland to take place in 2020, saying that it is clear that Scotland’s future lies as “an equal, independent European nation” which echoed her pledge at the SNP party conference on Tuesday.

The Scottish Conservatives have hit back at Sturgeon’s comments and the SNP’s intent to vote down the deal, saying it would be “unforgivable” for opposition parties to put their own interests “over the best interests of the country”.

Johnson's new deal removes the controversial Irish backstop mechanism and ensures Northern Ireland remains in the UK customs territory, while remaining aligned to a limited set of EU rules on goods.

Representatives of the Northern Irish Stormont Assembly will be able to vote on whether to keep the arrangements in place every four years, but the DUP remains concerned over the lack of a Unionist veto on any arrangements.

Reaction from other opposition parties alongside the SNP has been scathing, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn calling it an “even worse” deal than what Theresa May negotiated.

However, President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, called the deal “fair and balanced” and appeared to suggest there would be “no prolongation” to the Article 50 deadline, now that a deal is in place.

The prime minister has emphasised that the deal will finally “get Brexit done” for the UK to leave the EU by October 31 and allow a switch of focus to “the people’s priorities” and reuniting the country.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
October 18 2019

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