Nicola Sturgeon to unveil ‘soft Brexit’ plans for Scotland

Posted On: 
20th December 2016

Nicola Sturgeon will today outline the Scottish government’s plans to stay in the EU single market after Brexit.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
PA Images

The Scottish First Minister will argue that membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) will allow her country to make the “softest Brexit”.

Unveiling plans for “Scotland’s place in Europe”, she will explain how it can remain part of the United Kingdom while still being in the tariff-free the trading area

Ms Sturgeon has already threatened to hold a second independence referendum if Theresa May - who she spoke to on the phone yesterday - rejects her demands.

The SNP leader said: "Losing our place in the single market would be potentially devastating to our long-term prosperity, to jobs, investment and people's livelihoods.

"It is not just the loss of existing jobs and investment that would be at stake. In addition, there is the prospect of lost investment and employment - money and jobs which our place in the single market would ensure but which would otherwise never materialise.

"That is why the paper we publish today is centred on retaining our place in the single market - and why it is so important Scotland avoids the hard Brexit threatened by the right-wing Brexiteers in the Tory party."

Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are members of the EEA, which provides for the free movement of goods, services, people and capital in return for full access to the single market, but are not in the EU.

Instead, they pay into the Brussels coffers and must accept many EU laws.

Addressing MPs on Ms Sturgeon's plans yesterday, Mrs May said: "I welcome the fact they have been looking at their priorities, we have been encouraging all the devolved administrations to look at their priorities so they can be taken into account in the UK negotiations on leaving the European Union,” she said.

"There is already a structure in place which allows us to discuss these with the devolved authorities, the joint ministerial council, and we will be meeting in early January.

"We are increasing the number of meetings precisely so we can engage with the devolved administrations on these issues."


But a spokesman for the Prime Minister had earlier  insisted the UK as a whole must be "unified" as she prepares to trigger Article 50 next year.

He said: "We are committed as we leave the European Union to getting a deal that works for the UK as a whole. That means a deal that works for Scotland as well.

"We want a deal that allows British firms to have maximum access and freedom to operate within and with the single market and we are of the opinion that we will get the best deal for the UK if the UK is unified in its response. That will maximise the impact of our negotiations.

"The referendum decision was taken by the UK as a whole. The UK as a whole will leave the European Union."

Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale told Sky News: "I certainly think the First Minister's looking for an excuse.

"Our relationship with Europe is, of course, very important and I want to see that maintained but our relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom is even more important and nothing should be done to threaten that and that's why we're so firmly against a second independence referendum."

Chancellor Philip Hammond warned Ms Sturgeon earlier this month that Scotland will not be able to reach its own deal with Brussels once Britain leaves the European Union.