May Denies Being Too 'Feart' To Debate Sturgeon Over Brexit

29 November 2018, 06:41

Theresa May

Theresa May has hit back at claims she is too "feart" to go up against Nicola Sturgeon in a TV debate on Brexit, as the Prime Minister insisted her withdrawal deal will be "good for the UK as a whole".

With the country's departure from the European Union looming in just four months, she also restated her opposition to any propspect of a second Scottish independence referendum.

"One thing we do know is what would be bad for the Scottish economy would be taking Scotland out of the UK," the PM said.

With speculation MPs could reject her Brexit agreement in a key Commons vote next month, Mrs May is touring the country in a bid to sell the package directly to voters.

But she stressed that as the planned TV debate with Labour's Jeremy Corbyn was "about a vote that's going to take place in the House of Commons" the SNP leader had no part to play in it.

Downing Street earlier said as Ms Sturgeon was not an MP she would not be involved in the "meaningful vote" on the Withdrawal Agreement on December 11.

The First Minister responded by tweeting: "Neither are all the members of the public that the PM is currently appealing to here on her 'tour' of the country".

She added "#feart" - a Scottish word used when someone is afraid.

Ms Sturgeon attacked the Prime Minister the day after a Scottish Government paper warned the draft arrangements for the UK's departure from the European Union could result in a "loss equivalent to £1,610 per person in Scotland compared to EU membership by 2030".

Separate documents published by the UK Government showed its draft deal could cut the country's GDP by up to 3.9% over the next 15 years.

Leaving the EU without a deal in place could cause the economy to shrink by 9.3% over the same period, the analysis claimed.

It warned the UK will be poorer in economic terms under any version of Brexit compared with staying in the EU.

Mrs May, who was visiting the Scottish Leather Group in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, said: "What we've negotiated is a Brexit deal that is good for the UK as a whole, it's good for Scotland, good for employers and Scottish fishermen.

"Support for the deal has been encouraged by employers like Diageo, the Scotch Whisky Association and the National Farmers Union of Scotland".

She also claimed "Scotland's interests have been taken into account throughout the negotiations we've been doing", arguing that leaving Europe gives the UK the chance to negotiate its own trade deals, which could help "iconic Scottish products like smoked salmon and Scotch whisky".

Pressed on whether leaving the EU could pave the way for a second independence referendum in Scotland, Mrs May insisted: "Now is not the time to be thinking about this.

"The UK faces a very important decision, it's a historic moment for the UK - we entered the EUC, as it was, as the whole UK and we're leaving the UK as a whole United Kingdom."

The Prime Minister said it was important her government "can deliver on the Brexit vote of the UK in the deal that we negotiated with the EU".

She added: "If you look at the Labour Party, they don't have a plan for a Brexit deal with the EU. What they seem to want to do is frustrate Brexit and we've heard that today from the Shadow Chancellor.

"I believe it's important we deliver on the vote of the British people, I think it's about trust in politicians."

"This isn't a question about debating Leave of Remain, it isn't a question about re-running the referendum. It's about looking ahead to a vote that's taking place in the House of Commons when MPs will be looking at the deal the government has negotiated.

"I think people should be aware of what the proposals from the Leader of the Opposition are and from everything I've seen and heard he doesn't have a plan for Brexit."