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Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland should be part of Northern Ireland backstop deal

Emilio Casalicchio

4 min read

Scotland must be included in any "backstop" deal between the EU and Britain to keep the Irish border open after Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The SNP leader said Scotland would be placed at a competitive disadvantage if Northern Ireland remained in a customs union with Brussels and the rest of the UK does not.

But she insisted that would not lead to customs checks on the border between Scotland and England after Britain quits the EU.

The Conservatives blasted the comments and said the proposal would "hinder the flow of goods within the UK and add layers of unnecessary bureaucracy".

Ms Sturgeon spoke as negotiations on ending the Brexit deadlock entered a critical phase.

Both the UK government and Brussels have agreed that the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland must stay open regardless of the outcome of the Brexit talks.

That could see Northern Ireland remain closely tied to EU trade rules as a way of avoiding border checks on goods.

Ms Sturgeon said she did not “grudge” Northern Ireland for needing some kind of special status to respect the Good Friday Agreement, but argued differing rules could give Belfast a trade advantage.

“If we end up in a position where Scotland is not only being taken out of the single market, but we've got Northern Ireland still in the single market, the implications for us in terms of attracting business and investment for our economy become really profound,” she told Sky News during the SNP conference in Glasgow today.

“I would underline the importance of Scotland finding a way to itself remain in the single market - so it wouldn't be true to say that I don't have considerable worries about that as an outcome.”

Asked whether she would expect some version of a Northern Ireland backstop plan to apply to Scotland too, the SNP leader said: “I think that would be my position.”

She went on: “I don't think it takes too long of thinking time to understand that in many - let's be honest about it - in decisions about investment coming from other parts of the single market, the city of Glasgow and Belfast might find itself in competition for investment at times.

“And if we are looking down the road to a situation where Belfast is in the single market and Glasgow is not, then any responsible First Minister of Scotland is going to say 'that's a big worry for us'.”

But Scottish Conservative MP Stephen Kerr said: “Nicola Sturgeon knows that having a separate backstop for Scotland would mean having regulatory and custom checks at the border with England.

“Nearly two thirds of Scotland’s trade is with the rest of the United Kingdom, putting up barriers to this will only hinder the flow of goods within the UK and add layers of unnecessary bureaucracy. It is unacceptable for businesses and will damage the integrity of the UK’s internal market.

“Nicola isn’t about getting a good Brexit deal for Scotland. Nicola and the SNP are all about disrupting and frustrating the Brexit process purely to help further their obsessive pursuit of independence. The conference this week is clearly showing that.”


Elsewhere, she told ITV Borders it was “still possible” that Scotland could have a second independence referendum before the next Holyrood elections in 2021.

She made the comments shortly after Downing Street slapped down her call for a fresh vote, after the Scottish public backed staying part of the UK in 2014.

The Prime Minister's spokesperson said: "We've made our position on this repeatedly clear. Scotland already had an independence referendum just four years ago and voted decisively to remain in the UK.

"This should be respected. As the Prime Minister has said, now is not the time for a second independence referendum, now is the time for the United Kingdom to be pulling together to get the right deal for the United Kingdom and the right deal for Scotland in our negotiations."

Ms Sturgeon has said she will set out her next moves regarding Scottish independence after the next stage of the Brexit negotiations has concluded.

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