Scotland politics

Sixty leading figures call for Brexit to be halted

Henry McLeish and Baron Robertson
Image caption Henry McLeish and Baron Robertson are among those who have signed the letter

An open letter calling for Brexit to be halted has been signed by more than 60 of Scotland's leading public figures.

It comes as UK Brexit Secretary David Davis called on both sides in the negotiations on the UK's departure from the EU to "get down to business".

The letter, published in The Herald, said it was time for a new national debate and a rethink on Brexit.

Signatories include former first minister Henry McLeish and former Nato general secretary Baron Robertson.

They claim that disastrous consequences of the decision to leave Europe are becoming ever clearer and that Britain's international reputation has weakened.

And they emphasise the need for the UK to build a more equal society as part of a wider push, from inside the EU, for a fairer Europe.

On Monday, while launching the second round of formal talks in Brussels, Mr Davis spoke of tackling the "substance of the matter" - and placed his priority on clarifying the issue of mutual citizens' rights, ahead of the start of any trade talks.

The letter has been signed by senior figures in politics, business, academia and the arts.

'Complex negotiations'

Mr McLeish told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We see Brexit taking us towards a catastrophe, there are no perceived benefits, and in the meantime we see negotiations in Brussels going nowhere and we see a cabinet in government at Westminster that's shambolically handling the affairs."

Scottish Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins, who voted in favour of remaining in the EU but has since become a convert to Brexit, told the programme there was no evidence that Brexit had so far been a catastrophe.

"These are going to be the most complex negotiations the United Kingdom has entered into, probably in my lifetime," he said. "But there is a difference between saying that something is going to be difficult and complex and saying it is already turning out to be a catastrophe.

"The idea that the country has changed its mind again, there's just no evidence for it. Eighty percent of MPs in the House of Commons are in favour of withdrawing from the European Union.

"Nobody is pretending this is easy or straight forward but we are getting on with the job."

He said manufacturing was strong in the UK, the UK remained the most attractive European country to invest in and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has raised its forecast for UK growth this year to 2%.

"Those three facts would indicate that post Brexit, the UK economy is strong and robust," he said.

Some of the 60 signatories

Image caption Clockwise from top left, Lord Campbell, Lesley Riddoch, Lord Wallace and Dame Anne Glover are among the signatories

Ex-EU ambassador Lord Kerr, biologist Dame Anne Glover, ex-Nato general secretary Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, former LibDem leader Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, Scotland's former chief medical officer Sir Harry Burns, STUC general secretary Grahame Smith, historians Prof Tom Devine and Prof Chris Smout, former European Court of Justice judge Sir David Edward, former first minister Henry McLeish, former Scottish Secretary Baron Helen Liddell, Lord (Jim) Wallace of Tankerness, businessman Ian Ritchie, Alyn Smith SNP MEP, David Martin Labour MEP, former Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson, former Lib Dem MEP Graham Watson, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland Dr Richard Dixon, Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Prof Christina Boswell and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch

The letter says: "We see our society, economy and politics becoming ever more undermined due to the impact of Brexit.

"We recognise that a narrow majority voted to leave the European Union, but the disastrous consequences are now becoming ever clearer - every day.

"Even before the UK has left the EU, we face falling living standards, rising inflation, slowing growth and lower productivity."

It adds: "In a democracy, it is always possible to think again and to choose a different direction. We need to think again about Brexit, to have a UK-wide debate about calling a halt to the process and changing our minds.

"We call for a national debate on Brexit. We ask our fellow citizens, and our politicians, to think again. It is time to call a halt to Brexit."

A spokesperson from the Department for Exiting the European Union said: "In one of the biggest democratic exercises in our history, the British people voted to leave the European Union.

"The government is committed to delivering on that mandate, by building a new deep and special partnership with our closest allies and neighbours in Europe."

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