Nicola Sturgeon calls for May to pause Brexit negotiations – The Guardian

Nicola Sturgeon calls for May to pause Brexit negotiations – The Guardian

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Nicola Sturgeon has called for Theresa May to pause the Brexit negotiations to build a new cross-party, “four-nation” consensus on the UK’s stance with the EU.

The first minister said the general election result had left the UK government so unstable and weak it was vital that May sought the support of devolved governments and opposition parties to agree a common position before talks with the EU due to begin next week.

“The Tories’ hard Brexit plan has been rejected and we cannot allow the Brexit negotiations to become hostage to the inability of either the Tories or Labour to command a clear majority,” Sturgeon said.

“It is imperative that we now build a cross-party, all-government approach to Brexit that will protect all of our interests at this highly uncertain time. The strongest possible position in the Brexit negotiations will be one that is backed by all parties and all governments across the UK.”

Sturgeon flew to London on Monday morning to meet her reduced group of 35 Scottish National party MPs at Westminster. The SNP lost 21 seats overall and held others with wafer-thin majorities, but it remains the third-largest party at Westminster and could wield considerable influence in critical votes on Brexit and other policy areas.

After admitting last Thursday’s result, in which the SNP lost 480,000 votes Scotland-wide, raised substantial questions about her quest for a second independence referendum, Sturgeon is anxious to reassert herself and underline her party’s relevance.

She said all Scotland’s political leaders had endorsed her call for a softer Brexit, which puts heavy emphasis on access to the single market. Sturgeon said that ought also to include remaining members of the customs union and guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens.

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, loyally supported May’s tougher stance on the UK’s Brexit position before the election, but has now stressed the need for the UK to seek “the freest trade possible” and an “open Brexit, not a closed one, which puts our country’s economic growth first”.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, campaigned before the election for the UK to guarantee EU citizens rights but John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, confirmed on Sunday Labour did not agree with attempting to retain membership of the single market after Brexit.

That suggests the SNP and Labour will struggle to agree a comprehensive shared agenda on Brexit at Westminster, despite renewed overtures from the SNP at the weekend for an anti-Tory alliance.

Sturgeon said the UK government should also reconvene a joint ministerial committee involving all three devolved governments in Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff, and set up an advisory groupinvolving Sinn Féin to agree an all-party, all-government negotiating position.

The SNP will decide on the selection of a new group leader in the Commons during the meeting with Sturgeon. Her deputy, Angus Robertson, who was also Westminster group leader and a star performer during prime minister’s questions, lost his seat to the Tories last Thursday, but remains the party’s deputy leader until he decides to stand down.

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