Northern Ireland Brexit deal proves independence would not result in hard border, says Nicola Sturgeon

First Minister says any EU deal for Ireland must be available to other UK nations

RESPONDING TO THE NEWS that a deal has been struck between the UK and EU which means there will be no hard border in Ireland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made the case for a special deal for Scotland and said that the UK Government can no longer claim that independence might mean a hard border between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The deal which was reached between Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in the early hours of Friday morning also means that the rights of EU citizens to live, work and study in the UK, and vice versa, will be protected.

UK courts will have responsibility for enforcing these rights within the UK, but will be able to refer to the EU’s Court of Justice for eight years after the Brexit date.

It is also clear from the deal that the UK, including Northern Ireland, will leave the customs union.

Nicola Sturgeon commented on the developments on Twitter, saying: “Move to phase 2 of talks good - but devil is in the detail and things now get really tough.

“If #Brexit is happening (wish it wasn’t) staying in single market and customs union is only sensible option. And any special arrangements for NI must be available to other UK nations.”

She added: “An aside - a UK government that is able to say that come what may, it will avoid hard borders with Ireland/NI after Brexit can never again tell Scotland that independence would mean a hard border between Scotland and rUK.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster, who was instrumental in preventing a deal from being reached earlier this week, has confirmed that she is “pleased” with what she described as six "substantial changes" to the paper in relation to the Irish border since Monday; although, she said, how the DUP votes on the final deal "will depend on its contents".

“For me it means there’s no red line down the Irish Sea,” Foster told the BBC.  “There are still matters we would like to have seen clarified”, she added, but said they had “ran out of time.”

The DUP has made clear that, while they do not want to see a hard border between Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland, it will not support any “regulatory divergence” seperating Northern Ireland political or economically from the United Kingdom. 

Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney has also welcomed the deal and said: "Ireland supports Brexit negotiations moving to phase two now that we have secured assurances for all on the island of Ireland.”

Prime Minister Theresa May herself said that the deal struck was a “significant improvement”, which will “provide clarity and certainty for businesses in the United Kingdom and the European Union”.

Juncker spoke alongside May on Friday morning, when he announced the “breakthrough” in the negotiations and acknowledged the agreement required “a compromise”.

In response to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s comments, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson tweeted: “And......here we go. Right on time Nicola Sturgeon uses any Brexit development to bang the indy drum. Could set your watch by it. Give it a rest.”

Earlier this week, Davidson spoke out against the possibility of a “markedly separate deal for Northern Ireland” which she said could have “unravelled the entire United Kingdom”, and accused the first minister of using the situation as a “political opportunity” to make the case for independence.

Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones also commented on the standoff between the UK Government and the DUP earlier in the week, saying: “We cannot allow different parts of the UK to be more favourably treated than others.

"If one part of the UK is granted continued participation in the Single Market & Customs Union, then we fully expect to be made the same offer."

Picture courtesy of First Minister of Scotland

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