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Brexit: Theresa May visits Scotland to defend EU deal

Theresa May

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Reuters

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The prime minister is struggling to secure enough support for her deal to get it through parliament when MPs vote next month

The prime minister is to visit Scotland on Wednesday as she seeks to build support for her Brexit deal ahead of next month’s vote in the Commons.

Theresa May will insist that the deal will protect jobs and provide new opportunities for exporters as she meets factory workers in Glasgow.

Her Brexit agreement won the support of EU leaders at the weekend.

But it has faced strong criticism from opposition parties – as well as from many of her own MPs.

The prime minister’s visit comes a day after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled an analysis paper which claimed that the Brexit deal could cost Scotland £9bn a year by 2030, compared to if it had remained in the EU.

Ms Sturgeon, who wants the UK to remain permanently in the single market and customs union and has backed calls for another referendum on the Brexit terms, has said the SNP’s 35 MPs at Westminster will vote against the deal on 11 December.

The proposals are also opposed by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Democratic Unionists and many Conservative MPs on both sides of the Brexit debate.

It means Mrs May currently looks unlikely to win parliament’s backing for the deal, which she has warned is the only one on the table – and that voting it down would result in the UK leaving the EU on 29 March next year without any deal in place.

Ahead of the prime minister’s visit to Scotland, the UK government said the deal reached in Brussels on Sunday creates a free trade area for goods with no tariffs, fees or charges – which it says is the first agreement of its kind between an advanced economy and the EU.

It has also highlighted the support the deal has received in recent days from Diageo, National Farming Union Scotland, the Scotch Whisky Association and BAE Systems, who have also warned about the consequences of “no deal” for Scotland.

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Nicola Sturgeon unveiled Scottish government analysis of the deal at her Bute House residence on Tuesday

And it has insisted that the deal will leave the UK free to strike its own trade deals with other non-EU countries for the first time in four decades – and will allow Scottish fishermen to “take back control of our waters” by leaving the deeply unpopular Common Fisheries Policy.

The prime minister will say: “It is a deal that is good for Scottish employers and which will protect jobs. It includes a new free trade area with no tariffs, fees, quantitative restrictions or rules of origin checks – an unprecedented economic relationship that no other major economy has.

“At the same time, we will be free to strike our own trade deals around the world, providing even greater opportunity to Scottish exporters.

“I welcome the strong support which employers have given to the deal and the certainty which it provides.”

Media captionWill MPs vote for the prime minister’s Brexit deal?

Mrs May will also pledge that the deal “ensures that we will leave EU programmes that do not work in our interests”.

She will add: “So we will be out of the Common Agricultural Policy, which has failed our farmers, and out of the Common Fisheries Policy, which has so tragically failed Scotland’s coastal communities.

“At long last, we will be “an independent coastal state” again – taking back full sovereign control over our waters, and free to decide for ourselves who we allow to fish in our waters.

“I have been robust in defending the interests of Scottish fisherman so far, and I will always be so.”

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Getty Images

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Mrs May denies that her government is preparing to “sell out” fishermen over quotas and access to UK waters after Brexit

The trip to Scotland is the latest stop in a two-week tour by Mrs May as she tries to promote and sell her deal to the public and business.

On Tuesday, the prime minister made similar visits to Wales and Northern Ireland – where she faced criticism from Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster, whose party has a parliamentary pact to support the Conservative government in key votes.

Ms Foster claimed the prime minister had simply “given up” on trying to strike a better deal with the EU – a charge Mrs May denies.

Meanwhile, former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon told the BBC the deal was “doomed” and must be renegotiated.

And speaking as she unveiled the Scottish government’s latest Brexit analysis paper, Ms Sturgeon said the deal was “unacceptable to the Scottish government and damaging to the people of Scotland”.

The document included analysis – first published in January – claiming that a new free trade agreement could leave Scots £1,600 worse off per year by 2030, compared to a scenario where the UK remains in the EU.

It also warned the “backstop” being put in place to prevent the return to a hard border in Ireland could leave Scotland at a “serious competitive disadvantage” to Northern Ireland.

Ms Sturgeon said: “It will not end uncertainty. It will extend it. We are being asked to accept a blindfold Brexit with all the difficult decisions kicked down the road.”

Brexit: Theresa May visits Scotland to defend EU deal}

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