Nicola Sturgeon urges MPs to grasp opportunity for new EU referendum

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the chances of Scotland staying in the EU are at their highest since the referendum in 2016

The chances of Scotland staying in the European Union are at their highest since the 2016 referendum, Nicola Sturgeon has claimed.

The First Minister called on MPs to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal and grasp the opportunity to have another referendum.

Ms Sturgeon’s message comes as the UK Parliament prepares to vote on the Prime Minister’s deal for leaving the EU.

She said: “People in Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit. The door to staying in the EU is now clearly open and Westminster MPs must not slam it shut.

“The Prime Minister’s deal will take Scotland out of the EU against our will and out of a market eight times bigger than the UK’s alone – costing jobs and snatching opportunities from future generations.

“It must be defeated and the no-deal option must be taken off the table.”

She added: “The Prime Minister herself says ‘no Brexit at all’ is now a real possibility.

“With crunch votes coming up the chances of remaining are at their highest since the EU referendum.

“MPs must therefore come together to vote down this bad deal, rule out no deal, extend the Article 50 process and call another referendum. This opportunity must be grasped.

“Scotland is paying far too high a price from a chaotic Tory government that people here did not vote for. It’s time in this historic week in Westminster for Scotland’s voice to be heard.”

During Monday’s Brexit debate, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford warned Scotland “cannot and will not be in the passenger seat” if the Conservative government drives the UK “off the Brexit cliff edge”.

Mr Blackford said the “vote on the Prime Minister’s blindfold Brexit deal is a defining moment, not just in the Brexit negotiations but for the future relationships across these islands”.

Labour’s shadow Scotland Secretary Lesley Laird said the party would vote against the deal “because it is bad for Scotland and bad for the UK”.

She added: “If the Prime Minister loses this vote, we will push for a General Election to break the deadlock.

“The Tories are putting Scotland’s future at risk but their botched Brexit must not be used as an excuse to further undermine the integrity of the UK.

“Scotland, like the rest of the UK, needs a transformative Labour government that will invest in our people, our communities and our industries.”

On Monday, Mrs May issued a last-ditch plea for MPs to back her Brexit deal and warned MPs would be behaving with the “height of recklessness” if they rejected her Withdrawal Agreement when no alternative deal was on offer which was negotiable and respected the 2016 referendum result.

Her hopes that a letter from European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker making clear the backstop was “not a threat or a trap” would win over wavering MPs looked set to be dashed, as the Democratic Unionist Party – which props up her minority administration – dismissed it as “meaningless”.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said while the Prime Minister’s deal is not perfect, he will vote for it.

The Tory MP said: “It brings certainty and that’s what the people I speak to want. It is what business leaders across Scotland have been calling for.

“It also avoids the kind of chaos and confusion nationalists crave because they believe it would strengthen their demand for a second independence referendum.

“I do not claim it is perfect – but it does achieve key objectives.”