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Everything You Need To Know About Nicola Sturgeon's Brexit Plan

The first minister wants to keep Scotland inside the single market even if the rest of the UK leaves, and warned another independence referendum is still "highly likely".

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Danny Lawson / PA Wire/PA Images

Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled the Scottish government's plan to keep Scotland in the single market after the UK leaves the European Union.

Speaking at Bute House in Edinburgh on Tuesday morning, the first minister launched a 50-page document that sets out what the Scottish government wants from the UK government's Brexit negotiations. The key points are:

* Sturgeon wants Theresa May to keep the UK in the European Economic Area (EEA).

* The Scottish government is demanding the "repatriation" of powers currently controlled in Brussels, plus the power to hold an independence referendum.

* Scotland will seek to remain in the single market even if the rest of the UK leaves.

You can read the full document – "Scotland's Place in Europe" – on the Scottish government's website, and here's some more detail on the plans.

Scotland will try to stay in the single market, even if England and Wales decide to leave it.

Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/PA Images

Sturgeon said she would be lobbying the prime minister to keep the whole of the UK inside the single market – the arrangement that guarantees the freedom of trade and movement within the EU.

However, she said if the UK government decides to leave the single market, she will ask May to make Scotland's continued membership of it a part of the UK's list of demands in the Brexit negotiations with the other 27 EU members.

Sturgeon said: “We want the UK government to make clear when it triggers Article 50 that it intends to stay in the single market and customs union. If it will not do so, we want the UK government to seek, as part of its negotiation, a differentiated solution for Scotland as set out here."

.@NicolaSturgeon addresses argument that differentiated option for Scotland in #Brexit would be difficult to achieve

When questioned by journalists, Sturgeon repeatedly denied such an arrangement would lead to border checks between England and Scotland, saying there was "no good reason" for it.

The document states: "There are no good grounds for suggesting that a border will be required between Scotland and England which – under this proposal – would share a common position in relation to the EU customs union."

However, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said "all the evidence" shows that such an arrangement would create a border between England and Scotland, adding: "That's not just our view – it's the view of industry leaders, academics, and members of the SNP's own hand-picked standing council of experts.

"Given that, it's perhaps no surprise that today’s paper hasn't been written by the experts, but by the SNP government itself."

Sturgeon wants the whole of the UK to stay inside the European Economic Area and customs union.

Jane Barlow / PA Wire/PA Images

Sturgeon said she would make it clear to May that she believed the "least worst option" to come from Brexit would be for the whole UK to stay inside the European Economic Area.

The EEA is the area of EU countries, and a few outside of the EU such as Norway and Iceland, where free trade and free movement are practised as part of the single market.

The first minister said the whole UK staying in the EEA would be the best compromise between the mandate to leave the EU and respecting the wishes of voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland to retain free movement and trade.

The document states: "The Scottish government believes that, short of full EU membership, the least worst outcome for the UK as a whole would be to retain full membership of the European single market through the European Economic Area, and to remain in the customs union.

"However, the UK government currently appears to be on a course that will take the UK out of the European Single Market and the EU customs union, a decision which could cost the Scottish economy up to around £11 billion per year."

Independence is still "on the table" and Sturgeon wants to be given the power to hold another referendum.

Sturgeon takes part in a public discussion about the EU referendum result and what it means for EU nationals living in Scotland at the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh.
Jane Barlow / PA Wire/PA Images

Sturgeon takes part in a public discussion about the EU referendum result and what it means for EU nationals living in Scotland at the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh.

The first minister reiterated that she still believes another independence referendum is "highly likely" and that, in her opinion, the best option for Scotland would be to become an independent country in the EU.

The Scottish government's Brexit plan lays out demands for all the powers currently reserved for Brussels to be given to Holyrood, plus the ability to hold another legal referendum should the Scottish parliament vote for it.

The document was, however, quite light on mentions of independence, and Sturgeon refused to discuss whether another referendum would be inevitable should the prime minister not take the Scottish government's proposals on board.

Davidson said the document was merely a stealthy way of achieving independence, adding: “Nicola Sturgeon talks about compromise, but written in black and white in her own report is her true intention – she wants independence in Europe.

“She has been using the Brexit issue to get to that point all along and the people of Scotland can see her manoeuvring for what it is. If she truly wants the best Brexit deal, she should be pulling together with other parts of the UK, not trying to split the country up."

While Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said she supported moves to keep Scotland in the single market, she urged Sturgeon to rule out another referendum for the next five years.

Dugdale said: "If Nicola Sturgeon really wants to unite the country, she should take this opportunity to rule out another independence referendum. Our country is divided enough already without seeking even further divisions.

"Labour will not support any plan to force another independence referendum on the people of Scotland."

The prime minister has promised to "look closely" at the proposals, but previous comments suggest she might not agree to them.

May leaves 10 Downing Street for Prime Minister's Questions
Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire/PA Images

May leaves 10 Downing Street for Prime Minister's Questions

Downing Street has promised to study the proposals put forward by the Scottish government as it prepares to trigger Article 50, alongside some more details on what it wants from Brexit negotiations, in the new year.

However, earlier this month chancellor Philip Hammond poured cold water on the idea that Scotland could get a different deal from the rest of the UK at the end of the Brexit negotiations, saying it was "clear that we can't have a different deal or different outcomes for different parts of the UK".

Scotland secretary David Mundell has also said that there would be "no special deal".

.@NicolaSturgeon has this message for the Westminster Government about 'Scotland's Place in Europe' plan #Brexit

Sturgeon warned the UK government that if it failed to take the Scottish government's proposals on board, it would send a message to the Scottish people that their opinions are not equal to the opinions of people in England.

She said: "To the Westminster government I say this: Your response to these proposals will tell us much, perhaps everything, about whether the UK is in reality the partnership of equals you claim it to be."

However, the first minister refused to say whether an independence referendum would be inevitable should the UK government ignore the plans.

Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.

Contact Jamie Ross at

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