Belfast Telegraph

No good reason Scotland can't have single market status, claims Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has said there is "no good reason" Scotland cannot "effectively" stay in the single market, after it appeared Britain and the European Union were close to an agreement on issues surrounding the Irish border.

Although no deal has been reached, European Council president Donald Tusk said Monday's Brexit talks with Theresa May had seen "significant progress".

It comes after Ireland's deputy premier Simon Coveney said the Dublin government's concerns over the post-Brexit border with Northern Ireland were set to be addressed fully.

Regulatory alignment could mean both sides of the island's border following the same rules governing trade, to ensure goods continue to move freely with no checks.

The First Minister has since welcomed the news and called for similar status to be granted to Scotland.

She said: "While I welcome the proposed commitment for Ireland and Northern Ireland - and while the particular circumstances in Scotland are distinct and separate from those in Ireland - today's developments show very clearly that if one part of UK can retain regulatory alignment with the EU and effectively stay in the single market, there is no good practical reason why others cannot do the same.

"Indeed, any special status for Northern Ireland would make a similar solution for Scotland even more vital.

"For Scotland to find itself outside the single market, while Northern Ireland effectively stays in would place us at a double disadvantage when it comes to jobs and investment."

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain part of the EU in the referendum which was held in June 2016.

While Prime Minister Theresa May has previously insisted the entire UK will leave the single market, European Council president Donald Tusk made clear Brexit talks cannot move on to trade issues unless the UK can satisfy Dublin there will be no return to a strictly-controlled border in Ireland.

On Monday, Mr Coveney said : ''The indications we have is that we are in a much better place now than we have been in the negotiations to date.

"The legitimate concerns that Ireland has been raising for months are going to be addressed fully.

''These discussions are moving in the right direction.

"I hope we are in a place this evening where Irish people north and south will get reassurance from the wording that is very close to being finalised now.''

Mr Coveney told RTE Radio One he believed that the post-Brexit border will be ''invisible'' with ''no barriers'' and ''will look very much like it looks today''.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose party has agreed to support the minority UK Government in Parliament, spoke out after the comments.

Speaking at Stormont, she said: "We have been very clear. Northern Ireland must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom.

"We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom.

"The economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will not be compromised in any way."

Ms May said the meeting with Mr Juncker had been "constructive", despite no deal being reached.

She added: "On a couple of issues some differences do remain which require further negotiation and consultation and those will continue.

"But we will reconvene before the end of the week and I am also confident that we will conclude this positively."

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