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Scotland's Sturgeon suspects PM Johnson is pursuing no-deal Brexit

Russell Cheyne, Reuters | Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson shakes hands with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House in Edinburgh on July 29, 2019.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Monday she believed Prime Minister Boris Johnson was pursuing a no-deal Brexit.

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Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Johnson in Edinburgh, Sturgeon said there was no clarity on how he planned to reach a new exit deal when the European Union has repeatedly said it will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement it reached with his predecessor Theresa May.

“That makes me think that whatever Boris Johnson might be saying publicly about his preference being to strike a deal, in reality he is really pursuing a no-deal Brexit because that is the logic of the hardline position that he has taken,” she said.

“I think that is extremely dangerous for Scotland, indeed for the whole of the UK.”

Johnson told Sturgeon that while he would prefer to negotiate a new exit deal with the EU, Britain would be leaving the bloc on October 31 “come what may”, his office said.

Agreement 'dead'

Sterling tumbled to a 28-month low on Monday as Johnson said the Brexit divorce was dead and warned that unless the EU renegotiated, Britain would leave without a deal in three months' time.

“The Withdrawal Agreement is dead, it’s got to go. But there is scope to do a new deal,” Johnson told reporters in Faslane, Britain’s nuclear submarine base on the Clyde, in his first visit to Scotland as prime minister. “We are going to go ahead and come out of the EU on October 31,” he said.

The pound, which was trading at $1.50 on the day of the 2016 referendum, dropped more than 1.5 cents to $1.2213 on no-deal fears, the lowest level since March 2017. Sterling has fallen more than 2.5 cents since Johnson was named leader.

Shockwaves

Many investors say a no-deal Brexit would send shockwaves through the world economy, tip Britain’s economy into a recession, roil financial markets and weaken London’s position as the pre-eminent international financial centre.

Some senior politicians and experts have warned a no-deal Brexit could also make the break-up of the United Kingdom more likely and Sturgeon last week wrote to Johnson to say she would continue preparations for a second independence referendum.

Scotland rejected independence by a 55-45 percent majority in 2014 but then 62 percent voted to stay in the EU at the 2016 Brexit referendum, fuelling calls for a second independence vote from those who argue it is being taken out of the bloc against its wishes.

“It is not in my view a democratic position to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose and I made that clear to him,” Sturgeon said after the meeting with Johnson.

The Scottish government will consider the timetable of its push for another vote over the summer, she said, adding:

“Obviously what happens over that period with the negotiations around Brexit will have an impact on the decision that we make.”

Obscuring other priorities

Britain’s Institute for Government has warned that a no-deal Brexit would “dominate government for years”, allowing little room for other domestic priorities outlined by Johnson such as health, education and transport.

The think-tank said such an outcome would also place the United Kingdom, which brings together England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, “under unprecedented pressure”.

Beyond Scotland, Northern Ireland also voted to stay in the EU in the 2016 vote while Wales and England voted to leave.

The question of the unification of Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland will inevitably arise if Britain leaves the European Union without a divorce deal on October 31, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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