Sturgeon to link Brexit to austerity in London speech

Nicola SturgeonImage copyright

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Nicola Sturgeon is expected to warn of an economic “race to the bottom” post-Brexit

Nicola Sturgeon is to make a speech in London linking the Brexit vote to the UK government’s austerity policies.

The first minister will tell the Institute of Directors that the vote to leave the EU was in part “borne of inequality” in communities UK-wide.

Theresa May has argued that the UK could thrive after leaving the EU by becoming a leader in free trade.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones will also address the conference at the Royal Albert Hall via a video clip.

A senior government minister is expected to speak, as is former chancellor Norman Lamont, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, and businesswoman and peer Martha Lane Fox.

Ms Sturgeon has argued that the UK could face a “lost decade” if it opts for a “hard Brexit”, distancing itself from the single market.

‘Feelings of powerlessness’

The SNP leader is expected to tell the annual conference that inequality was a key reason behind the EU referendum result, arguing that the government “can no longer ignore the social and economic cost” of austerity.

She is expected to say: “There are many, many causes of the vote to leave the EU. For many people, they will have included entirely reasonable doubts and reservations about the EU. It is, after all, an imperfect organisation.

“But in part, Brexit was a product of a sense of disenfranchisement and disillusionment. It was borne of inequality, of feelings of powerlessness – of austerity budgets which hurt the public services and social safety nets that so many people depend on.

“And so one consequence of the referendum must be a new effort – which needs to be given real substance in the UK government’s autumn statement – to ensure that the benefits of growth, of globalisation, are more fairly distributed.”

It will be Ms Sturgeon’s first major speech to a UK audience since the referendum in June, although she has made numerous statements on the matter at Holyrood.

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The conference is being held at the Royal Albert Hall in London

Ms Sturgeon has told MSPs she is “profoundly concerned” about the implications of the UK leaving the EU, with the early signs “not encouraging”.

She has argued that the “least worst option” of remaining in the single market should be a key objective, hitting out at the “cloak of secrecy” over the UK’s current negotiating position.

Mrs May meanwhile has said the UK could get a better deal from foreign trade after leaving the EU.

In a column in Holyrood magazine which she later posted in full on Facebook, the prime minister said Brexit represents an “exciting chance to forge a new role in the world”.

She said the UK would “make a success” of Brexit, saying: “There should be no doubt: we will get a deal that works for us all.”

Mrs May said: “As we strike that deal, we have an exciting chance to forge a new role in the world. Scotland’s status will not be diminished by that; it will be enhanced.

“We will go out into the world with the aim of being a leader in global free trade, one that makes the most of our advantages, from the financial expertise of Edinburgh to the shipbuilding prowess of the Clyde and the globally renowned food and drink produce of Scotland’s countryside.”

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