Sunday 4 December 2016

'UK Government doesn't know what it is trying to achieve' - Nicola Sturgeon expresses frustrations at Brexit

Published 24/10/2016 | 17:56

First Minister of Scotland and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon speaks as the SNP’s biggest-ever conference began in Glasgow. Photo: John Linton/PA
First Minister of Scotland and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon speaks as the SNP’s biggest-ever conference began in Glasgow. Photo: John Linton/PA

Theresa May has pledged that the views of the devolved administrations will help shape the UK’s Brexit negotiations, but Martin McGuinness and Nicola Sturgeon have expressed frustration with the Prime Minister.

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The leaders of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales met with Ms May at Downing Street today, with the Prime Minister promising to secure a “bespoke Brexit deal that works for the whole of the UK”. 

In a statement following the two-hour gathering, Number 10 said the Prime Minister had told the leaders that she wanted their input in shaping the negotiations, and that the final agreement will make a success of Brexit “for everyone in the Union”.

But Ms Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, said after the meeting that she still has no idea what the UK government’s negotiating position is.

"We discussed the UK's negotiating position in general, but it is safe to say we got no more information or detail on that than we had before we went into the meeting, and I got the strong sense the UK government itself doesn't know what it is trying to achieve,” she told the BBC.

"That is why many parts of the meeting were deeply frustrating, because we felt as if we weren't getting any greater insight into the thinking of the UK government."

Ms Sturgeon has said the Scottish government is preparing for all possibilities, including independence from the UK, after Britain leaves the EU.

Her frustration was shared by Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, who told the Irish Independent that there is still doubt about the objectives of the British government.

“We’re all working in good faith on the basis that there is a plan to have meetings over the course of the coming weeks and months right through until March of next year to try and ascertain if it’s possible to agree a position between the devolved administrations and the British government,” Mr McGuinness said. 

“The frustration which Nicola is talking about, which I share, is the lack of information about precisely what objectives the British Prime Minister has in relation to the outworking of this negotiation and what she is going to face when it comes to triggering Article 50. I share those concerns.”

The meeting was attended by Ms Sturgeon, Mr McGuinness, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and her Welsh counterpart Carwyn Jones.

Mr Jones said it was difficult for the devolved administrations to influence the process when there was so much uncertainty over what the government was seeking.

But Ms May said that if the devolved nations work together, they can make a success of Brexit, while strengthening the union.

“The country is facing a negotiation of tremendous importance and it is imperative that the devolved administrations play their part in making it work," she said.

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