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As PM and Davidson declare truce...

Sturgeon: Johnson taking UK down a ‘dangerous’ No Deal path

Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House

Nicola Sturgeon greets Boris Johnson at Bute House

Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon remained firmly divided over the Prime Minister’s Brexit policy in a tense meeting at Bute House.

The First Minister said that whatever the Prime Minister was declaring, it was clear to her that he was pursuing a “dangerous” No Deal option and she said it was “incumbent” on those who think it is the wrong outcome to do all they can to block it.

“The path the government is pursuing I think is dangerous,” said Ms Sturgeon following her meeting with the PM at the FM’s official residence in Edinburgh.

Ms Sturgeon gave a noticeably stony-faced greeting to Mr Johnson on the steps of Bute House amid a chorus of boos from the waiting public. Mr Johnson was later criticised on social media for leaving by the back door, possibly the first head of state to do so, and almost certainly to avoid the jeering that could be heard by office workers in Charlotte Square.

The First Minister was in no mood to compromise on her opposition to the emerging harder line in Westminster.

“The new Prime Minister has set the UK on an almost inevitable path to a No Deal Brexit. The position it has taken makes it very difficult to see how any deal can be struck with the EU and I think that would be catastrophic for Scotland and indeed for the whole of the UK,” she said.

“I made it abundantly clear to Boris Johnson my opposition to Brexit and to a No Deal Brexit and I also made it clear to him that the people of Scotland should be able to chart their own course and choose their own future, not have that future imposed upon them.

“He says he wants to get a deal but what is not clear to me, and I asked him this directly, was how he intends to get from the very hardline fixed position he has taken to a position where a deal is possible, if the EU also sticks to the very consistent position it has taken about the withdrawal agreement and the backstop not being open for negotiation, and that is where there is no clarity at all..

“That makes me think that whatever Boris Johnson might be saying publicly about his preference being to strike a deal, in reality he is really pursuing a No Deal Brexit – that is the hardline logic of the position he has taken and I think that is extremely dangerous for Scotland and indeed for the whole of the UK. It is incumbent on all of us who think that is the wrong outcome to do everything we can to block it.”

Eariler, Mr Johnson and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson drew a line under their recent stand-off to announce they had a shared determination to secure the union, boost the economy and work to achieve a deal on Brexit.

The meeting had been billed as a potential showdown after Ms Davidson rejected Mr Johnson’s policies on No Deal.

However, the two emerged from the Scottish parliament to announce that they were in broad agreement for each other’s ambitions.

Ms Davidson said: “First and foremost, the Prime Minister and I spoke about our shared determination to strengthen the Union and to make the case against Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a second referendum on independence.

“We also discussed the many ways the UK Government can work in Scotland, for Scotland, to boost our economy and support key Scottish businesses.

“On Brexit, the Prime Minister has made clear the government’s preference is to leave the European Union with a deal. I back him wholeheartedly in that aim.

“Indeed, all 13 Scottish Conservative MPs backed a deal the last time one was presented in the House of Commons, as did the Prime Minister.

“The SNP’s warnings about No Deal are utterly hypocritical.

“Nicola Sturgeon has already made clear that SNP MPs will vote against any deal the new Prime Minister brings to parliament, just as they voted against the deal brought forward by Theresa May three times.

“Rather than complain from the sidelines, it’s time the First Minister worked with colleagues across the UK, and supported a deal that delivers on the referendum result, gives clarity to Scottish business, delivers for the Scottish fishing industry, and works for us all.”

Mr Johnson did not hold any public events during his visit to Scotland, but met Ms Davidson, saying:  “I have a very good relationship with Ruth and I look forward to meeting her in a few hours.

“I’m with Ruth very much. She has been a fantastic leader of the Scottish Conservatives. I’m lost in admiration of what she has achieved – I’m a massive fan of the way she has taken the argument to those who would destroy our union and constitution and damage a global brand that is loved and admired and recognised around the world.”

Earlier, during a visit to the Faslane nuclear submarine base, he said he was “not aiming for a no deal Brexit”. He told reporters: “What we want is to get a deal. I have had some interesting conversations with our European partners. I’ve talked to Jean Claude [Junker] and Angela Merkel and I’m reaching out today to Leo Varadkar and I’ve had a good conversation with Emmanuel Macron.

“The feeling is yes, there’s no change in their position, but it’s very positive and they all know where we are. We can’t accept the backstop it’s been thrown out three times, it won’t work, and the Withdrawal Agreement as it stands is dead but there’s ample scope to do a new and better deal and that’s what Ruth and I want to achieve.

“I’m confident that we will get a deal, but it’s also right that we prepare for no deal.”

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