Sturgeon Demands EU Talks Input

Nicola Sturgeon will demand a say on the UK's negotiating stance on European Union reform ahead of the in/out referendum when she meets with leading figures from the UK and devolved administrations today.

The Scottish First Minister said the devolved administrations "cannot be kept in the dark'' over EU negotiations which she says could jeopardise the UK's place in Europe.

The 24th British-Irish Summit will be held in Dublin, featuring leading figures from the UK Government and administrations from Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the UK islands.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The EU referendum will see a decision that will affect every part of these islands; and the UK Government cannot ignore the devolved administrations when it comes to its negotiating stance.

"The Prime Minister has made clear he is intent on securing a significant renegotiation of the UK's terms of European membership and he is already conducting negotiations which he says may require treaty change.

"The whole process jeopardises our place in Europe and all the many benefits which flow from that, which is why the Scottish Government was not in favour of this in-out referendum.

"But now that it is taking place, it is absolutely essential that Scotland's voice, and those of the other devolved administrations, is heard to ensure our interests are acknowledged - we cannot be kept in the dark.

"That is why I am today calling for a forum to be identified which gives the devolved governments a direct input to the negotiations to ensure that our priorities are listened to and our vital interests are protected.''

She added: "The Scottish Government unequivocally supports our membership of the EU.

"At the same time, as I made clear when I visited Brussels recently, I don't believe the EU is perfect and it can be reformed to work better for its citizens.

"The process currently under way is an opportunity to do that, but it is also vital that the talks being led by David Cameron do not result in trade-offs or deals which threaten the many benefits which the EU delivers to Scotland.

"EU membership supports around 330,000 Scottish jobs while 46% of our total exports, worth almost £13 billion, go to EU countries; it is unthinkable that something of such significance is not given a Scottish context.

"The interests of Scotland are at the heart of all this Government does and I will be making a powerful and positive case for Scotland and the UK's continued membership of the EU at today.''

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Government's objective is to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU and to address people's concerns, and then making the case for the UK stay in the EU on a reformed basis.

"Of course we will continue to work with and listen to the Devolved Administrations on a whole range of issues.''

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