Brexit: Sturgeon has ‘constructive’ Corbyn talks

Brexit: Sturgeon has 'constructive' Corbyn talks
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Media captionIn full: Nicola Sturgeon interview with Laura Kuenssberg on Brexit

Scotland’s first minister has said she wants to see a “coalition of opposition” over the draft Brexit deal after holding talks with Jeremy Corbyn.

Nicola Sturgeon said there was a “strong willingness” among the opposition parties to work together.

Ms Sturgeon and Mr Corbyn have both criticised Prime Minister Theresa May’s draft Brexit agreement, which was published last week.

The first minister and prime minister also had a meeting at Westminster.

Ms Sturgeon said it had been a “full and frank discussion” where she set out her opposition to the UK government’s draft deal.

Mrs May argues that the plan she unveiled last week is the only realistic chance of avoiding a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

But there has been widespread criticism of the draft 585-page withdrawal agreement and the short paper setting out what the UK and EU’s future relationship could look like.

Two of the prime minister’s cabinet ministers have resigned – including her Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab – while others are believed to be trying to change its wording, and there has been talk of a Tory leadership challenge.

Ms Sturgeon, who says she wants to find a “workable alternative” to the deal, held “exploratory” talks with Mr Corbyn and other opposition leaders in London ahead of her meeting with the prime minister.

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Ms Sturgeon said she had a “full and frank” discussion with Theresa May

She told the BBC there was agreement with Mr Corbyn that the prime minister’s deal is a bad one, and that no deal should not be the only alternative.

The first minister added: “The next stages of all of this have to be to look at what we can coalesce around in terms of alternatives”.

She also claimed that momentum for another referendum on Brexit was growing.

A Labour spokesman said Mr Corbyn’s meeting with Ms Sturgeon had been “constructive”, with the pair discussing their “common opposition” to the draft Brexit agreement and their “determination to work across parliament to prevent a disastrous no-deal outcome.”

Ms Sturgeon has already said the 35 SNP MPs will vote against the deal in the House of Commons and has accused the prime minister of presenting a “false choice” between the agreement and a no-deal Brexit.

The first minister has called for continued, permanent single market and customs union membership for the whole of the UK as an alternative, and has been highly critical of the “backstop” proposals for Northern Ireland, which she has said could have a “devastating” impact on jobs and investment in Scotland if they are enacted.

The UK’s four farming unions, including NFU Scotland, have given their support to Mrs May’s draft EU withdrawal agreement, saying it was “not perfect” but would allow trade in agricultural goods, as well as food and drink, to continue largely as before.

And Mrs May’s defacto deputy, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, last week urged Ms Sturgeon to “listen to what Scottish business is saying” and back the agreement.

‘Ambitious compromise deal’

He added: “Scottish business is lining up with business throughout the UK to say we want a deal. It will give us clarity, certainty – we can plan, we can count on investment, we can decide upon jobs staying in Scotland.

“The way in which to put prosperity and jobs in Scotland at risk is to prolong the uncertainty rather than to take the ambitious, good, compromise deal that is on offer.”

On Monday, the prime minister tried to persuade business leaders that the deal offered the best way forward, saying it would stop EU migrants from being able to “jump the queue”.

She told the CBI conference in London that migration would become skills-based, with Europeans no longer prioritised over “engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi”.

Ms Sturgeon later tweeted that she believed the prime minister’s choice of words was “offensive” and “disgraceful”.

Mr Corbyn told the same conference that Brexit could be a “catalyst for economic transformation” in the UK.

Labour has said its priority is to secure a general election, and has argued that there is still time to secure a better Brexit deal.

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