Nicola Sturgeon brands Boris Johnson 'beyond belief' over no-deal Brexit
Nicola Sturgeon has said it is "beyond belief" that Boris Johnson is now telling the UK to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.
The First Minister warned that such a scenario would be "disastrous" for Scotland's beleaguered economy, which is still struggling to recover from the impact of coronavirus.
Business chiefs and opposition leaders north of the Border joined the criticism after Downing Street confirmed that talks on a future trade deal with the EU were now "over".
It means that exports face costly tariffs when the Brexit transition period ends at the start of next year. Border delays are also likely and Edinburgh's financial services sector would also suffer.
“It is beyond belief that in the midst of a global pandemic and deep recession the Prime Minister is telling Scotland to get ready for a disastrous no-deal Brexit," Ms Sturgeon said.
“With less than three months until the end of the transition period, businesses and people across Scotland will be in despair at this extraordinary statement.
“At best this is reckless brinkmanship. At worst it means the UK Government is now actively pursuing a no-deal outcome.
“The reality is Scotland’s economy is going to be damaged by a further needless hit to jobs at the worst possible time, with either a thin trade deal or no deal now the only possible outcomes.
“A completely unnecessary Brexit shock will hit many businesses already struggling with the Covid-19 crisis."
Mr Johnson has said the UK must now prepare for an Australian-style deal on future trade with the European Union, which will see tariffs on exports, although the Tory leader hinted talks may resume if there is a "fundamental change" in approach from Brussels.
Ms Sturgeon told the daily coronavirus briefing she was "deeply frustrated and depressed" at the latest impasse.
And she added later: "A no-deal outcome would be particularly disastrous. Scotland could see heavy tariffs on goods, which for some sectors would be crippling.
“Because of the hard-line Brexit position adopted by the UK Government, any outcome is going to be damaging, but a no deal will mean the biggest hit to jobs. The Prime Minister must withdraw his threat to force the hardest possible Brexit on Scotland.
“The Scottish Government view is clear – the best future for Scotland is to become an independent country.”
Business chiefs north of the Border urged the UK Government to get back round the negotiating table, with a warning that no deal would mean "trade chaos" for Scots firms.
Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: The UK Government must not walk away from a deal. There’s simply too much at risk, particularly at this critical time as businesses begin to face the prospect tougher Covid restrictions once again through the winter.
“We need the UK Government to take a laser focus on delivering the best deal possible for Scottish business and our key export markets. We believe a deal that benefits businesses both in the UK and the European Union is within grasp, sensible compromises must be found in order to achieve this.
“A deal must be reached as soon as possible so we can at least have a clear route to EU markets and avoid trade chaos with one of our biggest trading partners.
"Businesses are already on their knees as a result of the pandemic and we need to avoid inflicting further damage to the economy, as a result of any political grandstanding.”
There was also a warning that Scottish shoppers face hefty price hikes if a deal cannot be reached.
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Scottish Retail Consortium head of policy, said: “It is deeply concerning that the Prime Minister is now telling businesses to prepare for no deal with the EU.
"There is nothing retailers can do to insulate consumers from the impact of £3 billion of new tariffs on food in our supermarkets.
"Moreover, new checks and red tape that will apply from January 1 will create additional disruption in the supply of many goods that come from or through the EU. The UK Government must strain every sinew to agree a zero-tariff agreement, or else it will be Scottish shoppers who pay the price.”
Almost two-thirds of Scots voted against Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum, but the weight of votes south of the Border swung the outcome in favour of Leave.
Scottish Greens co-Leader Patrick Harvie accused the UK Government of a “contemptuous” approach to voters north of the Border as a no-deal outcome now looms.
“The Westminster government’s chaotic approach to exiting the EU will have dire consequences for the people of Scotland, who let’s not forget have repeatedly rejected the Brexit project," he said.
"Scotland doesn’t want Brexit, and dragging us out of the EU against our will was always appalling, but for the Prime Minister to do so on a cliff edge in the middle of a pandemic is criminal.
"There are so many areas of concern about this back-of-a-fag-packet Brexit shambles that it is difficult to know where to begin.
"Boris Johnson has so far failed to explain what plans are in place for stockpiling medicines, and as we revealed last month he has provided no funding for the Scottish Government to do so either.
"It is vital that he explains today exactly what measures are being taken to ensure that everyone in the UK will continue to have access to the medicines they require come January. It’s clearer than ever that the only thing the UK Government has to offer Scotland is contempt.”
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