Emily Thornberry open to talks with SNP in bid to avoid ‘hard Brexit’

© PA
Emily Thornberry.

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary has said she would hold talks with the SNP in a bid to keep the UK in the single market – although she ruled out the possibility of Scotland striking a separate Brexit deal from the rest of the country.

Emily Thornberry also made clear that while Labour could have discussions with Nicola Sturgeon’s party to see if the UK could avoid a “hard Brexit” and stay part of the single market, it would not enter into a pact with the SNP.

The Scottish First Minister has said membership of the single market, which protects the free movement of goods and people, “seems to be the obvious consensus position we should try to work towards”.

But in a speech at the Institute of Directors conference in London on Tuesday, she also made clear the Scottish Government is “looking to see if there are ways in which – for example – the benefits of single market membership could be retained by Scotland even if they are discarded by the rest of the UK”.

Ms Thornberry said she would be “more than happy” to talk to the SNP about how the UK could stay in the single market following the vote to leave the European Union.

But she stressed there must be one deal for the whole of the UK.

She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I think the most important thing about our negotiations is that the Government understand that as far as the people are concerned, nobody voted for anybody to lose their job, I think remaining in the single market is a very important part of us keeping a healthy economy.”

On discussions with the SNP, she added: “I’m not talking about a pact but I’m certainly happy to talk to them because I think it is vital for the UK interest that we get the best deal possible in terms of leaving the European Union but having a good ongoing relationship with the European Union.

“And given the European Union is where we export most of our stuff, we have to be able to access the European market as well as we possibly can and as unrestricted as possible. That has to be a priority because it does affect people’s jobs.”

But she also insisted there should not be a separate deal for Scotland, saying: “We voted as a country, it was a UK referendum, it’s a UK result, and we have to negotiate as the UK and get the best result for the UK.

“I don’t think that there should be separate negotiations and separate deals, I think we should have a UK deal.”