Sturgeon Warns of 'Monumental Damage' From U.K. Rupture With EU

  • Scottish leader appeals for help to remain in single market
  • Region’s government will help EU citizens stay after Brexit

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appealed across the political divide to help keep Britain in the single market after it leaves the European Union.

Speaking as her Scottish National Party begins its annual conference in Glasgow, Sturgeon said the British government’s plan to leave the single market would inflict “monumental damage” on all parts of the U.K.

Nicola Sturgeon

Photographer: James Glossop/WPA Pool via Getty Images

“Let’s stay in the single market and stay in the customs union,” she told the BBC’s "Andrew Marr Show" on Sunday. “We should not simply accept that these things are off the table any more. The arithmetic in the House of Commons is such that we should continue to argue for common sense.”

Staying in the single market would require Britain to keep paying the EU, accept the trade bloc’s regulations and allow free movement of people, obligations Prime Minister Theresa May insists are unacceptable. But pro-EU Tories and the opposition Labour Party back doing so, at least for an extended transition period after Brexit in March 2019. That poses a problem for a weakened Tory government following the loss of its parliamentary majority in June’s general election.

Scotland voted strongly to stay in the EU in the 2016 referendum that put Britain on a path out of the bloc, and Sturgeon pledged to revive her push for a second vote on breaking away from the U.K. once the terms of Brexit become clear. The SNP is the third-largest party in the British parliament despite losing seats in June, though opinion polls show support for independence has fallen.

“We will consider the timing again when we have more clarity toward the end of next year,” she said.

Sturgeon also confirmed that her semi-autonomous government will pick up the tab for the 20,000 EU citizens working in the public sector in Scotland if they are asked to pay a fee to acquire “settled status” after Brexit.

“It would help us keep vital workers and we want to send a message to EU nationals that we want them to stay here because we welcome them,” she said, estimating that any such charge could amount to about 65 pounds ($85) per person.

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