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No-deal Brexit must be ruled out, say Scottish and Welsh leaders

Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford have issued a joint plea ahead of the British-Irish Council meeting in Manchester.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Jane Barlow/PA)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Jane Barlow/PA)

The first ministers of Scotland and Wales have joined forces to demand the new prime minister rule out a “disastrous” no-deal Brexit.

With Boris Johnson battling Jeremy Hunt to win the keys to Number 10,  Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford said they were both “increasingly alarmed” by the “hardline rhetoric” that had emerged in the leadership contest.

Mr Johnson has already pledged to take the UK out of the EU by October 31 “do or die”.

The new prime minister must change course and rule out no-deal under any circumstances Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford

While the former London mayor insisted the chance of a no-deal Brexit was “a million to one against”, he left open the option of suspending Parliament if MPs tried to block this.

With political leaders from across the UK gathering for the last British Irish-Council meeting before the new prime minister is selected next month, the Scottish and Welsh first ministers called on Theresa May’s successor to change tack.

In a joint statement released before the Manchester meeting Ms Sturgeon, the SNP leader, and Labour’s Mr Drakeford said they were “becoming increasingly alarmed by the increase in hard-line rhetoric about a no-deal Brexit and a debate focused on policy proposals for leaving the EU which have no basis in reality”.

The two politicians said “severe economic damage” was already being done as a result of Brexit, highlighting job losses at  British Steel, Ford, Honda, and elsewhere.

Leaving the EU without a deal could be “disastrous for the economies within these islands and for the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people”, Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford said.

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Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford. (Simon Galloway/PA)

While the British-Irish Council was formed as part of the Good Friday Agreement, the first ministers warned: “A no-deal Brexit would deeply damage the reputation of the UK as a reliable international partner and undermine the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process on the island of Ireland.

“The next prime minister must pull back from the brink of a no-deal Brexit and be honest with the public.

“If they continue on their current path, the UK looks increasingly likely to crash out of the EU in just four months’ time.

“The EU will not simply cave in to demands to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement and claims that we could both leave without a deal and still benefit from tariff-free trade with the EU have been disproved.

“The new prime minister must change course and rule out no-deal under any circumstances.”

The pair also reiterated their support for a second vote on the UK’s future in Europe, saying it was “clear that due to the deadlock at Westminster, there should be a new referendum on EU membership”.

In theses circumstances both the Scottish and Welsh governments would campaign to keep Britain in the EU, with the two first ministers vowing: “We will work together and with others who share that aim.”

PA

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