Scotland’s First Minister expresses ‘profound concerns’ over new UK Prime Minister

Written by Martin Banks on 24 July 2019 in News

Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), has expressed her “profound concerns” about the prospect of Boris Johnson’s incoming premiership of the UK.

Nicola Sturgeon  | Photo credit: Press Association

Speaking in the wake of Johnson’s election on Tuesday as the new UK Prime Minister, Sturgeon congratulated Johnson on his victory, but said, “it would be hypocritical not to be frank about the profound concerns I have at the prospect of his premiership.”

“I am certain that the vast majority of people of Scotland would not have chosen to hand the keys of No. 10 to someone with his views and track record.”

Sturgeon said that the Scottish Government would be “at the forefront of all and any moves to stop Brexit and block a No Deal Brexit, as will SNP MPs in the House of Commons”, adding that a No Deal Brexit would do “catastrophic harm” to Scotland.


“I will continue to advance the preparations to give Scotland the right to choose our own future through independence, rather than having a future that we don’t want imposed on us by Boris Johnson and the Tories. That is now more important than ever,” she said.

With the UK due to leave the EU on October 31, Johnson’s election has raised real concerns among EU political figures with his warning that the UK will quit “with or without a deal.”

Further EU reaction to Johnson’s victory came from Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, who said he looked forward “to an early engagement on Brexit, Northern Ireland and bilateral relations”, while Irish Deputy PM Simon Coveney said Ireland “will work constructively with Johnson and his Government to maintain and strengthen British/Irish relations through the challenges of Brexit.”

Johnson was elected as the new leader of the Conservative Party, and the UK’s next Prime Minister, after receiving 92,153 votes (66 percent) from the party’s members.

“I am certain that the vast majority of people of Scotland would not have chosen to hand the keys of No. 10 to someone with his views and track record” Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

The other contender, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, received 46,656 votes (34 percent), on an overall turnout of 87.4 percent.

Theresa May will take part in her final Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday before resigning as Prime Minister to make way for Johnson, who will deliver his first speech as Prime Minister at 4pm and is then expected to appoint his new Cabinet of ministers.

Further cabinet resignations are due this week to follow that of Conservative MP Anne Milton, who resigned from her position as a junior minister in the Department of Education at the weekend.

Milton said, “I have always believed that our departure from the European Union should be centred around future cooperation. I have grave concerns about leaving the EU without a deal, and so I feel it is time for me to return to the backbenches.”

Commenting on Johnson’s election, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the EU looks forward “to working constructively [with Johnson] when he takes office, to facilitate the Withdrawal Agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit,” adding, “We are ready also to rework the agreed [Political] Declaration on a new partnership in line with [European Council] guidelines.”

First Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, said that the current Withdrawal Agreement “is the best possible solution in a very complicated situation. It does justice to both the position of the EU and the United Kingdom and I would hope we can continue to work on the basis of that assumption.”

Outgoing European Council President Donald Tusk, who recently said he hopes there is a “special place in hell” for Brexiteers, which many took as a reference to Johnson, is yet to comment.

But the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Arlene Foster, issued a statement welcoming Johnson’s election, saying she had spoken to him and confirmed that the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the two parties remained in place.

She also said that a review of the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU would take place “over the coming weeks and will explore the policy priorities of both parties for the next Parliamentary session.”

This comes as the Vice President of Sinn Fein, Michelle O’Neill, said, “Brexit will be catastrophic for this island,” adding, “Boris Johnson needs to wake up from his fairy tale.”

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, meantime, warned that Johnson had “an enormous task ahead of him.”

President Donald Trump, in a speech in Washington, heaped praise on Johnson, calling him “Britain Trump”.

More comment came from Henry Newman of Open Europe, the leading think tank, who said, “We will know pretty quickly if [Johnson’s] prime ministership will be a success or not.”

“The Conservative Party is only just hanging on to power in Parliament and also facing a dual threat: on the one hand, a group of MPs are willing to bring down the Government if they don’t deliver Brexit by 31 October…and on the other hand, a group of MPs who are ready to do anything to stop a No Deal Brexit.”

Earlier this week Newman appeared before the House of Lords European Union select committee to discuss the state of Brexit negotiations.

In an update to its World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warns that a potential No Deal Brexit is one of the biggest risks to the global economy, alongside protectionist US trade policies.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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