Scotland politics

May urges Scottish and Welsh ministers to back Brexit deal

Theresa May Image copyright EPA
Image caption Theresa May met the Scottish and Welsh first ministers at Downing Street

Prime Minister Theresa May has urged the first ministers of Scotland and Wales to back her Brexit deal.

At a Downing Street summit, the leaders of the devolved administrations discussed the UK's impending exit from the European Union.

Mrs May said her plan "delivers for the whole of the UK", urging others to "pull together" behind it.

But Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said MPs should study other plans, such as a new Brexit referendum.

Members in both the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have overwhelmingly voted against Mrs May's deal.

MPs are set to hold their "meaningful" vote on the withdrawal agreement, hammered out with European negotiators, in January 2019.

Ministers from around the UK gathered for the meeting in London on Wednesday afternoon, with Brexit high on the agenda. Mrs May and a team of her ministers were joined by Ms Sturgeon and the newly appointed Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford.

There was also discussion of immigration after the government published a White Paper of its plans for rules after the UK leaves the EU.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon believes Mrs May should look at other options, including a second EU referendum

Mrs May has been facing a battle to win support for her Brexit plans, with critics on her own back benches as well as across the opposition.

The prime minister said she was "confident that what we have agreed delivers for the whole of the UK".

She said: "This deal honours the result of the referendum - taking back control of our money, laws and borders, protecting jobs and livelihoods, and freeing the UK to strike new trade deals with countries around the world.

"That's why it is more important than ever that the devolved administrations get behind this deal and listen to businesses and industry bodies across all four nations who have been clear that it provides the certainty they need."

'Run down the clock'

Following the meeting, Ms Sturgeon said SNP MPs would not be voting for Mrs May's deal, and called on the prime minister to extend the current Brexit deadline of 29 March.

She said: "We have argued that Article 50 should be extended, so that no-deal is absolutely taken off the table and that time is then given for parliament to look at the alternatives to the deal.

"Our preference of course is for another EU referendum, to give people across the UK the opportunity, knowing what they now know after the last two and a half years, to change their minds."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The UK government has set out new proposals for how immigration will be handled post-Brexit

Ms Sturgeon also said she had made her views about immigration "very clear to the prime minister" at the meeting.

She said: "This paper says that the proposals would reduce EU migration into Scotland by 85%. So it would be devastating for jobs, the economy, for living standards, the income of the country, and it would also deprive us of people who make a big and positive contribution to life in Scotland."

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has argued that the new system would be based on the skills, rather than origin, of migrants and show the UK was "open for business".

Mr Javid said the plans did not include a "specific target" for reducing numbers coming into the UK but would bring net migration down to "sustainable levels".

Preparation funds

Meanwhile, the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens tabled a vote of no confidence in the UK government following a meeting on Tuesday evening.

The parties want the government to debate the motion before parliament rises for the Christmas recess, but it is thought the government is only obliged to give time to motions tabled in the name of the Leader of the Opposition - Labour's Jeremy Corbyn - who has so far failed to do so.

And Chancellor Phillip Hammond has confirmed the Scottish government will be allocated £55m for Brexit preparations in 2019/20, as part of its £2bn spend.

The Welsh Government will receive £31m while the Northern Ireland Executive will be granted £20m.

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