Welsh First Minister dismisses Sturgeon's plan for bespoke Brexit deal for Scotland
NICOLA Sturgeon’s planned Celtic charm offensive on Brexit has got off to a stuttering start, after her Welsh counterpart said a bespoke deal for Scotland could not “possibly work”.
Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones rejected the idea of Scotland being able to keep its membership of the EU single market if the rest of the UK left in a hard Brexit.
“I can’t see how it would work,” he told BBC Radio Scotland shortly before hosting a meeting of the British Irish Council in Cardiff which was attended by Ms Sturgeon.
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster, her deputy Martin McGuinness, Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the UK Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire were also present.
Scotland’s First Minister confirmed last week that she was looking at options for Scotland remaining a member of the single market after Brexit, including membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) or European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
Such an arrangement would require help from the UK government and unanimous consent from the nations of the EU, EEA or EFTA to rewrite their rules.
At present, only sovereign states can join the EEA or EFTA, not a “sub-state” like Scotland.
The SNP Government is due to publish plans to retain ties to the EU by the end of the year.
However sources indicated last night the timetable might slip into early 2017, depending on events at next month’s UK Supreme Court appeal hearing on the Article 50 process.
Mr Jones told the BBC: “I don’t think a separate arrangement works if I’m honest with you.
“I don’t see how there can be separate market access arrangements for the different nations within the UK that share the same land mass.
“If Scotland had separate market access arrangements, that would possibly mean different customs arrangements, that would mean there would be customs posts on the border. There’s no other way to deal with that.”
Speaking after the summit, Ms Sturgeon said she and Mr Jones agreed staying in the single market would be the “least worst outcome” for the whole of the UK.
She said: “Anything else risks us falling off a hard-Brexit cliff edge.”
Ms Sturgeon, Mr Jones and Mr McGuinness also said Theresa May should have attended.
Mr Brokenshire said he would look at all options for a UK-wide Brexit deal.
Ms Sturgeon later held a bilateral meeting with Mr Kenny ahead of a two-day visit to Dublin next week, when she will meet business leaders, Irish President Michael D Higgins and address the Seanad, the upper house of the Irish parliament.
Senior Spanish MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons, a member of Spain’s ruling People’s Party, yesterday called a separate Brexit deal for Scotland “impossible” in a newspaper interview.
He said: “Scotland, while it is part of the United Kingdom, has to be the same as the UK. We’re not going to accept Scotland in the single market without the rest of the UK.”
SNP External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop later told the BBC: “Nothing is impossible.
“We are in uncharted territory. The most important thing is to try and persuade the UK as a whole not to walk away from the single market or customs union.”
Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said Mr Jones and Mr Gonzalez Pons had been “simply stating the obvious – that a separate Scottish deal to the rest of the UK isn’t on the table. The only reason the SNP is pursuing this option is because it wants to provoke another row with Westminster.”