Sturgeon to challenge May over Brexit ‘plan B’

Written by Darius Rubics

Prime Minister Theresa May is to face questions about her Brexit plans from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to Edinburgh.

Mrs May is in Scotland to mark the signing of a “city deal” investment package for the south east region.

She will also take in the Edinburgh festival before talks with Ms Sturgeon.

The first minister has challenged Mrs May to set out her “plan B” if she is unable to sell her preferred Brexit plans to European leaders.

Mrs May said she was aiming to “create more good jobs and spread economic prosperity across the country” as the UK leaves the EU.

The trip is the prime minister’s first domestic appearance since she cut short her summer walking holiday for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron.

She has also spoken to the EU’s chief negotiator Jean-Claude Juncker in a bid to win him over to the vision of Brexit she agreed with her ministers at Chequers in July.

And while in Edinburgh she will come under pressure from Ms Sturgeon to set out more details of what the UK’s future relationship with the EU might be after it leaves in March 2019.

The Scottish and UK governments have long been at odds over Brexit, having failed to come to an agreement over the future of devolved powers which saw MSPs refuse to give their backing to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Prior to the talks, Ms Sturgeon said MPs could not be asked to make a decision on the withdrawal agreement without details on what the future might look like.

She said: “With the Chequers proposals falling flat, even if a withdrawal agreement can be secured, there is a very real risk that we end up with a blind Brexit – which will see the UK step off the cliff edge next March without knowing what landing place will be.

“That would do as much harm to jobs, investment and the economy as a no deal Brexit and would leave the country directionless through the transition period.

“Given this lack of clarity and real concerns of no agreement, it is time the prime minister told us what her Plan B is. We cannot have no deal and we cannot have a blind Brexit. ”

‘Economic prosperity’

Highlighting the Edinburgh city deal announced last July, Mrs May said her government was working to deliver a good deal for the whole of the UK.

She said: “As we leave the EU, the UK government is working in partnership with business, academia and the devolved administrations to create more good jobs and spread economic prosperity across the country.

“By making the most of our country’s assets and the talents of all of our people, we can build a brighter future for the whole UK.”

The Edinburgh and south east Scotland city deal was announced last year but will be formally signed off by the two leaders on Tuesday.

It will see the Scottish and UK governments each contribute £300m, while local business and academic partners are expected to bring the total investment up to £1.2bn.

The funds will go towards scientific research on space, health sciences, agricultural technology and food and drink at five new “innovation hubs”, as well as the creation of a new 1,000 seat concert hall.

This is the latest in a string of city deal packages, which have seen the two governments invest more than £1bn each in infrastructure and economic growth.

Mrs May is also to announce £13m in funding for six science centres across the country, including in Dundee and Glasgow, to help improve facilities and attract new visitors.

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About the author

Darius Rubics