Theresa May 'must change course' on Brexit - Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon
Image caption,
Nicola Sturgeon said Theresa May had failed to take responsibility for her role in the Brexit "mess"

Prime Minister Theresa May "must change course" on Brexit "before it is too late", Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Mrs May is in Brussels for talks over an extension to the Brexit deadline, having laid the blame for the delay squarely on MPs in a public statement.

The Scottish first minister said Mrs May's comments were "deeply irresponsible" and "failed to accept" her own responsibility for the "mess".

Ms Sturgeon said that "if all else fails", MPs should revoke Article 50.

A petition calling for this to happen - a move which would cancel Brexit - has passed a million signatures despite high traffic crashing the UK parliament website.

Mrs May said she "sincerely hopes" the UK will leave the EU with a deal, despite the settlement she negotiated with European leaders being rejected twice by MPs.

The prime minister is at a summit in Brussels attempting to win a short extension to the Article 50 deadline for the UK to leave the EU, saying this would allow time for MPs to make up their minds.

Speaking from Downing Street on Wednesday, she said the public were "tired of infighting and political games" and said it was "high time" politicians made a decision on the next steps.

Telling the public that she was "on their side", she said: "So far parliament has done everything possible to avoid making a choice. All MPs have been willing to say is what they do not want."

MPs from all parties reacted angrily to the comments, with Commons Speaker John Bercow telling them on Thursday that "none of you are traitors".

Media caption,
Theresa May: "I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30 June"

And Ms Sturgeon weighed into the row during questions to the first minister at Holyrood, saying that Mrs May's statement was "deeply regrettable" and "beggars belief".

She said: "The prime minister's comments last night were deeply irresponsible and I hope in time she will reflect on that. But her comments also failed to accept any of the responsibility she bears for the mess the UK is in right now.

"She wanted to blame everybody except herself, but I think most people know it was the prime minister who triggered Article 50 without a plan; who draw self-defeating, contradictory red lines that boxed her in from the start; who called an unnecessary general election; who delayed the first vote on her deal in an attempt run down the clock; who failed to listen and change course after the first defeat of her deal and then the second.

"She must change course now before it is too late, and she must bear responsibility for the mess this country is in."

Ms Sturgeon favours holding another referendum on Brexit, and she told MSPs that "if all else fails" then the Article 50 notification should be revoked, keeping the UK in the EU.

Arriving in Brussels for a summit of EU leaders, Mrs May said she was "working on ensuring that parliament can agree a deal so we can leave in an orderly way".

She added: "A short extension gives us that opportunity to decide to leave the European Union, to deliver on that result of that referendum and I sincerely hope that will be with a negotiated deal."

Media caption,
Commons Speaker John Bercow tells MPs they are not traitors

Ms Sturgeon also said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was "childish" for walking out of a meeting with Mrs May and other party leaders because Independent Group MP Chuka Umunna was present.

Mr Corbyn, who is in Brussels for talks of his own, said he was seeking a "constructive alternative" to the prime minister's deal in order to avoid a no-deal exit.

And Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that an expected update on her plans for Scottish independence would have to wait until the current "phase" of Brexit is complete.

She said: "I said I'd wait until the end of this phase of the Brexit negotiations until setting out my views on the way forward for Scotland.

"Having done so this long I think its responsible to wait to see what clarity emerges in the next few days, even if that's just clarity that there will be no clarity. And then I will set out my views on the path forward."

The first minister was challenged on this by Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, who said independence would compound the "division and chaos" of Brexit.

He said Ms Sturgeon was being "inconsistent" for believing leaving the EU would be "chaotic", while also arguing that Scotland leaving the UK would be "a piece of cake".

But Ms Sturgeon replied that Mr Rennie thought "people in Scotland should just grin and bear it and put up with the devastation of Brexit instead of Scotland having the choice to escape".