DUBLIN/EDINBURGH (Reuters) - The difficulty Britain faces of finding economic and trade solutions outside the European Union’s single market is becoming more and more clear as it tries to navigate Brexit, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told an Irish business dinner on Thursday.
Sturgeon, who heads Scotland’s devolved government, said she would continue to argue forcefully for continued single market and customs union membership, and, like EU member Ireland, for open borders after Britain leaves the EU.
“(Keeping single market membership) is the obvious compromise solution. It’s democratically justified – the vote to leave was a very narrow one across the UK, and two of the four nations of the UK chose to remain,” she told Dublin’s Chambers of Commerce.
“Like you, we didn’t want Brexit. Like you, we support single market and customs union membership. And like you, we know that Ireland’s circumstances require particular attention, and we will argue strongly for an open border,” she said, according to an embargoed copy of her speech.
“In addition, the difficulty of attempting to find solutions outside the single market is becoming clearer by the month,” she added.
The ties between the United Kingdom’s four nations have been under strain from the Brexit vote, because the overall result included two nations — Northern Ireland and Scotland — that voted to keep EU membership while the other two opted to leave.
The border between the Irish Republic and the British province of Northern Ireland is currently open to free flow of goods, being an internal EU frontier. But if Britain leaves the EU’s customs union, it will become subject to customs regulation and as such, is a major issue in negotiations for Britain to leave the EU.
A new physical border could revive security concerns, almost 20 years after a peace deal involving Dublin that ended a long civil conflict in Northern Ireland and led to the end of army and police checkpoints.
Sturgeon was also due to meet Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin.
Writing by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Richard Balmforth