Nicola Sturgeon has urged Theresa May to ignore her party’s “extreme Brexiteers” and adopt a far more constructive tone with other EU leaders at next week’s summit.
In an article for the Guardian, the first minister says May should agree unambiguously to a much longer transition period inside the single market and customs union, and give EU citizens a clear guarantee their rights will be protected.
Sturgeon says the diplomatic row over the US president, Donald Trump’s “completely unacceptable” retweets of Islamophobic videos from Britain First must have convinced May it was “enormous folly” to believe a US trade deal would replace jobs that will be lost due to Brexit.
May has to confront the Eurosceptics in her cabinet and party by putting the economy first, Sturgeon says, particularly after the offensive attitude of the pro-Brexit lobby towards Ireland and threats of no deal in recent weeks.
May should do so even if that includes accepting the continuing jurisdiction of the European court of justice, Sturgeon says, as leaving it is simply an ideological totem for Brexiters.
“The prime minister needs to come away from the EU summit with a clear agreement to move into trade talks and a clear statement that transition will mean remaining in the single market and the customs union – nothing less,” Sturgeon writes.
“Warm words and cryptic soundbites will not suffice when companies are beginning to make real decisions that will impact on people’s jobs. And that transition must not be simply a two-year postponement of falling over a Brexit cliff-edge. It is an opportunity to recognise a better way forward.”
Sturgeon senses a political opportunity for anti-Brexit campaigners: the UK government has substantially softened its previously hardline stance on key issues such as the £50bn divorce bill, a post-Brexit transition period and onsharing powers with the Scottish and Welsh governments.
That change of tone ought to carry through into the new year, Sturgeon adds, with the government pursuing the EU talks “in a spirit of cooperation and solidarity of benefit to us all”. Guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens before Christmas would be the ideal start to that.
Sturgeon adds that a Scottish government impact study on Brexit being published in January will set out the benefits of remaining in the single market, particularly on energy and digital industries. A recent report by the Fraser of Allander Institute, an economics thinktank in Glasgow, found 134,000 jobs in Scotland relied on EU trade.
In a further fillip to Sturgeon’s demands for the full devolution of EU powers to Edinburgh, an opinion poll by 38 Degrees, the campaigning website, found that 62% of Scots want all relevant EU powers to be transferred directly to Scotland, rather than held by Whitehall. It found that 46% of voters believed devolution would be weakened if those powers were kept in London.