First Minister 'outraged'

Lidington tells Sturgeon: ‘back business support for Brexit plan’

David Lidington

David Lidington during a visit to Edinburgh earlier this year (pic: Terry Murden)


A senior UK government minister has warned Nicola Sturgeon that ignoring the wishes of business to accept the draft Brexit deal is putting the economy at risk.

David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, urged the First Minister to “listen to what Scottish business is saying” and help secure investment and jobs.

Mr Sturgeon has argued that the Brexit agreement will be damaging to the economy and that by providing Northern Ireland with access to the single market it will put Scotland at a competitive disadvantage.

But during a visit to Edinburgh Mr Lidington said the biggest threat came from “prolonging the uncertainty” and called on Ms Sturgeon to “take the good compromise deal that is on offer”.

He said the draft deal that was unveiled by the UK government earlier this week offered a “closer economic tariff-free relationship” with the EU than any other advanced economy in the world has.

He added: “We are taking the Scottish government’s views seriously, but there is a real choice for the first minister and for the Scottish government.

“Scottish business is lining up with business throughout the UK to say we want a deal. It will give us clarity, certainty, we can plan, we can count on investment, we can decide upon jobs staying in Scotland.

“The way in which to put prosperity and jobs in Scotland at risk is to prolong the uncertainty rather than to take the ambitious, good, compromise deal that is on offer.”

Ms Sturgeon, who says her 35 MPs would oppose any deal that does not include customs union and single market membership, has called on the UK government to “return to the negotiating table to secure a better one”.

She reacted angrily when Mr Lidington offered her a meeting last night at short notice. Mr Lidington said: “The prime minister phoned Nicola Sturgeon after the cabinet meeting concluded on Wednesday night and I offered a further meeting today which they turned down -they didn’t want that – and I’ve offered a meeting in London on Monday.”

Ms Sturgeon said on Twitter: “This is outrageous…I wasn’t prepared to cancel my constituency commitments at such short notice for @scotgov to yet again have to hear empty platitudes rather than be listened to…

Mr Lidington backed the Prime Minister in her battle with Brexit rebels and attempts to get approval for the plan, saying she would “decisively” win any vote on her leadership as he praised her “old fashioned, decent, public service”.

He added: “She is an intensely patriotic woman and she goes in motivated by doing her best for every family, every business, in every part of the United Kingdom.

“Frankly I’d say to my parliamentary colleagues, I would say to other people around the country, to get behind her.

“You haven’t got a plausible alternative to the approach that she is putting forward. She is doing her best for the country – the national interest, I think, says that we should rally in her support.”

New Cabinet appointments

Health Minister Stephen Barclay has been appointed Brexit Secretary to replace Dominic Raab, while Amber Rudd has been brought back into the Cabinet to replace Esther McVey as Work and Pensions Secretary.

Ms Rudd resigned as Home Secretary in April amid controversy over her handling of the Windrush controversy when she admitted having “inadvertently misled” MPs over immigration targets. A subsequent probe found she had been let down by officials.

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