Nicola Sturgeon to call for coalition to fight hard Brexit

Nicola Sturgeon will call for Labour, Lib Dem and moderate Tory support to fight a hard Brexit. Picture:'' Neil Hanna
Nicola Sturgeon will call for Labour, Lib Dem and moderate Tory support to fight a hard Brexit. Picture:'' Neil Hanna
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Nicola Sturgeon will call on moderate Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition with the SNP to fight against a “hard Brexit” deal for the UK.

The SNP leader will call for cross-party co-operation to defeat forthcoming Brexit legislation and warn that the right wing of the Conservative Party has hijacked the European Union withdrawal process and is using it to promote xenophobia.

We will also work to persuade others – Labour, Liberals and moderate Tories – to join us in a coalition against a hard Brexit

Nicola Sturgeon

Ms Sturgeon will step up her attacks on the Conservatives, claiming the party has been “shamed” by the way it is approaching Brexit.

On the opening day of the SNP conference in Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon will argue that the Prime Minister does not have a mandate to pursue a Brexit settlement which removes the UK from the single market.

In her welcome address to members, Ms Sturgeon will confirm that SNP MPs will oppose Theresa May’s Brexit bill when it comes before the House of Commons next year.

“That bill will repeal the legislation that enacted our EU membership. Scotland didn’t vote for that and so neither will our MPs,” Ms Sturgeon will say.

“But we will also work to persuade others – Labour, Liberals and moderate Tories – to join us in a coalition against a hard Brexit not just for Scotland but for the whole UK.”

Ms Sturgeon will argue the hard Brexit being discussed by the UK government does not fit in with the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment to the single market.

She will say: “The Conservative Party manifesto, on which Theresa May and all other Tory MPs were elected, said this: ‘We are clear about what we want from Europe. We say: yes to the single market’.

“The Prime Minister may have a mandate to take England and Wales out of the EU but she has no mandate whatsoever to remove any part of the UK from the single market.

“If the majority in the House of Commons stand up for what they know to be right, she will not get away with doing it.”

Speaking at the SECC in Glasgow, the SNP leader will step up attacks on eurosceptic Tories at a conference that is set to attract 3,000 delegates and see her plans for a second independence referendum come under the spotlight.

Ms Sturgeon is preparing legislation for another poll on the basis that she believes independence should be one of her options as she attempts to maintain Scotland’s relationship with the EU.

Delegates are expected to support a resolution suggesting that a referendum should be held before 2019 if no viable solution can be found allowing Scotland to remain an EU member while still being part of the UK.

Ms Sturgeon will also attack the UK government for suggesting that UK companies draw up lists of foreign workers. Mrs May has since attempted to distance herself from the policy, announced by Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

Ms Sturgeon will say: “Last week, we heard an intolerance towards those from other countries that has no place in a modern, multicultural, civilised society. It was a disgrace. It shames the Tory party and all who speak for it.

“But make no mistake – the right wing of the Tory party is now in the ascendancy and it is seeking to hijack the referendum result. Brexit has become Tory Brexit.

“They are using it as licence for the xenophobia that has long lain under the surface – but which is now in full view. They are holding it up as cover for a hard Brexit that they have no mandate for, but which they are determined to impose, regardless of the ruinous consequences.

“I suspect that many of those who voted to Leave now look at the actions and rhetoric of the Tories and think, ‘That’s not what I voted for’.

“They may have voted to take back control – but I don’t imagine many of them are happy to have handed that control to Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox.”

She will add: “They certainly didn’t vote to throw economic rationality out of the window. They didn’t vote to lower their own living standards or to sacrifice jobs and investment. They didn’t vote for our businesses to face tariffs or for holiday-makers to need visas. They didn’t vote for the scapegoating of foreigners.”

Ms Sturgeon will attempt to contrast the Conservative approach with her own plans to build an “inclusive” and “fairer” Scotland.

The SNP leader will talk of her ambition to create a country where “we cherish diversity and value people for the contribution they make to our society – not one where we judge them on the country of their birth or the colour of their passport,” adding: “The contrast with the attitude of the Westminster government couldn’t be more stark.”

Last night the Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont described Ms Sturgeon’s attack on his party as “cheap rabble-rousing” and urged her to withdraw her threat of a second independence referendum.

Mr Lamont said: “It’s deeply disappointing that instead of setting out a constructive plan on how she intends to manage the Brexit process, Nicola Sturgeon is intent on using her party conference to play to the SNP gallery.

“Cheap rabble-rousing in front of the party faithful won’t obscure the First Minister’s failure to speak for the majority of Scots.

“There is one thing Nicola Sturgeon can do to support Scotland this week and that is to dump her threat of a second referendum on independence.

“Failure to do so will only confirm that this First Minister puts the minority interest of her party supporters before the majority will of people across Scotland.

“We need a government in Scotland which is 100 per cent focused on the day job, and which puts an end to the uncertainty hanging over Scotland’s place in the UK.

“Scotland has spoken on independence. This week, the First Minister must show she has listened.”

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called on Ms Sturgeon to take responsibility for a decade of broken promises and budget cuts.