Scotland politics

Sturgeon: Coming weeks 'really critical' for UK on Brexit

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Media captionNicola Sturgeon warns 'time is running out' on indyref2

Nicola Sturgeon has said "the next few weeks are going to be really critical" in building a UK-wide Brexit position.

The first minister was speaking after meeting Theresa May for talks with other leaders in Wales.

Ms Sturgeon warned time was running out for the prime minister to "square the circle" of different Brexit votes and "heed the voice of Scotland".

Mrs May pledged to engage the devolved governments in the process, but said they "will not agree on everything".

She also said the Supreme Court ruling on triggering Article 50 had set out "beyond doubt" that relations with Brussels would be determined by the UK government.

The Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) meeting in Cardiff between the UK government and devolved administrations included talks on the Scottish government's proposals for maintaining access to the single market.

Proposals to remain in the single market have also been put forward by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood.

A communiqué issued following the meeting said "consideration of the proposals of the devolved administrations is an ongoing process", adding that "work will need to be intensified ahead of triggering Article 50 and continued at the same pace thereafter".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ministers from across the UK gathered for a meeting in Cardiff

Ms Sturgeon has previously warned that Mrs May's plans to take the UK out of the single market "undoubtedly" made a second referendum on Scottish independence more likely.

Following the latest meeting, she told the BBC: "If the Prime Minister is serious about doing what she wanted to do in July, and find a UK-wide approach before Article 50 triggered, if she's serious about seeing the UK as a partnership of equals, then I think its incumbent on her and the UK government to meet the devolved administrations halfway.

"So far there's no sign of that happening. And I'm very clear that time is running out for that to happen.

"The next few weeks are going to be really critical if we are to be convinced - and I'm far from convinced - that Scotland's voice is going to be heard or listened to at all."

'Crucial juncture'

Ms Sturgeon said her government was prepared to compromise, but had seen no such willingness from Mrs May's administration.

She said: "I came down here determined to go the extra mile, to find compromise, to try to find a way to square the circle of the UK vote to leave and the Scottish vote to Remain.

"I also came here with a very clear message for the prime minister, that so far the only compromise has come from the Scottish government, there's been no attempt at compromise on the part of the UK government.

"What the meeting did today was to intensify the work of considering proposals from the Scottish government and other devolved administrations ahead of trigger Article 50.

"But I was very clear that we have to see a step change in the engagement of the UK government and their willingness to substantively compromise in order to convince me that they're serious about listening to Scotland."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Theresa May has said the UK cannot remain in the single market after leaving the EU

Among the other politicians at the event were Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, UK Brexit Secretary David Davis, and the Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh secretaries.

The Welsh government said Mr Jones had "welcomed a firm commitment" from Mrs May that Brexit "would to be use as cover for a 'land grab' on devolved powers", and noted the two had discussed "full single market access and its vital importance to the Welsh economy".

They noted that "the positions are not identical, but not irreconcilable at this stage".

The JMC communiqué said the prime minister had provided "an updated on the objectives for the UK's exit from the EU".

It added that ministers "explored how the four administrations can most effectively support businesses to trade and invest", and said they "talks about the principles which should govern relations between the four administrations".

'Full and frank'

Scottish Secretary David Mundell confirmed "inter-governmental discussions" on proposals brought forward by the devolved administrations would be intensified.

He said: "The question is not about can there be differentiation [for Scotland], the question is whether Scotland would benefit from differentiation, and that's what really has got to be at the heart of these intense discussions.

"Is it necessary to have a separate deal for Scotland, is the wish for a separate deal for Scotland driven by ideology or is it really based on economic fact and Scotland's future needs?

"That is what we need to have a full and frank discussion about in the weeks ahead."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson added that Ms Sturgeon's comments amounted to "more sabre-rattling", saying: "Nicola Sturgeon should be using these talks to work with others from across the UK to get the best Brexit deal for all of us. Instead, she's trying to pick fights to promote her own political agenda."

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