Theresa May must definitively rule out no-deal Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon demands

13 March 2019, 07:35 | Updated: 13 March 2019, 08:07

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has called on the Prime Minister to "definitively" rule out the "catastrophe" of a no-deal Brexit after her European Union exit plan was heavily defeated for a second time in the House of Commons.

Speaking after the vote - which saw MPs reject the UK Government's proposals by 391 to 242 - the Scottish First Minister said Mrs May had been unable to turn the result of the 2016 referendum "into a workable or deliverable plan to leave the European Union".

The vote leaves the UK "poised on a cliff edge" with a Government which has "effectively ceased to function", Ms Sturgeon insisted.

She called on MPs to vote against a no-deal Brexit when this comes before the Commons and to extend the Article 50 timetable - but also made clear again the SNP's support for a People's Referendum.

Mrs May had taken her Brexit deal back to MPs for a second "meaningful vote" after reaching agreement European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Strasbourg that the UK cannot be trapped in the controversial backstop arrangement indefinitely.

Although the 149 margin was reduced from the record 230-vote defeat of the first "meaningful vote" in January, Mrs May was left far adrift from a majority with just 17 days to go to the scheduled date of Brexit on March 29.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said he was "disappointed, but not surprised" with the result.

But Ms Sturgeon said: "The Prime Minister and the UK Government should be hanging their heads in shame this evening.

"Tonight's outcome was entirely predictable, and if they had been prepared to listen at any stage and engage constructively instead of simply pandering to Brexit extremists, they could have avoided it.

"Instead, we now have a Government that has effectively ceased to function and a country that remains poised on a cliff edge."

The First Minister continued: "The votes now scheduled for the coming days will now give Parliament the chance to definitively reject the catastrophe of no-deal and to allow for more time for a sensible way forward to be found.

"But the Prime Minister should definitively rule out no-deal, instead of offering a free vote on the issue."

Ms Sturgeon argued that ruling out a no-deal Brexit, and extending the deadline beyond March 29 would enable the public to have their say on Mrs May proposals in a second referendum.

"We will support any such referendum, provided it has the option to remain in the EU on the ballot paper," she said.

With Ms Sturgeon also having committed to set out her thinking on the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum in the coming weeks, when there is more clarity on Brexit, she said that "Scotland's needs and voice have been ignored by the UK Government" during the negotiations to leave the EU.

The SNP leader added: "Today a handful of DUP MPs held more sway over Scotland's future than our own national Parliament - that demonstrates more clearly than ever that the case for Scotland becoming an independent country has never been stronger."

Mr Mundell insisted the Prime MInister's deal was a "good deal", which would allow the UK to leave the EU in an "orderly" manner.

He said: "I'm disappointed, but not surprised at the outcome.

"Although the decision was marginally less than the previous occasion, Parliament clearly has once again rejected the deal. That is disappointing to me because I believe it is a good deal, a basis for leaving with an orderly exit, having a opportunity to negotiate a new and positive relationship with the EU."

Kerry Buist, director of the Scotland for a People's Vote campaign, noted 80% of Scottish MPs had voted against Mrs May's "bad deal".

She stated: "With the days and hours draining away, a further spin of the wheel at Westminster for this dead deal would be utterly pointless.

"Instead, there is only one way forward - to hand the final decision back to the public through a People's Vote."