Johnson Faces Battle to Keep Scotland as Brexit Deal Shows Scars

Prime Minister Boris Johnson may be championing his last-minute Brexit trade deal, but he faces a battle with Scotland in the coming months that could also decide the U.K.’s future direction.

Within an hour of announcing an agreement with the European Union had been reached on Thursday, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon quickly reasserted her demand for a second vote on splitting away from the three-centuries-old union with England and Wales.

“Before the spin starts, it’s worth remembering that Brexit is happening against Scotland’s will,” she wrote on Twitter. “There is no deal that will ever make up for what Brexit takes away from us.”

Scotland, which voted by 62% to 38% to remain in the EU in 2016, is scheduled to hold elections to its devolved legislature in Edinburgh in May. Polls suggest Sturgeon’s pro-independence Scottish National Party could win a majority that would reinforce herpledge to hold a referendum on leaving the U.K. in the early part of the new parliament.

That would escalate the standoff between London and Edinburgh, with Johnson so far having refused to sanction a second vote. Officials inside his Conservative Party have already sounded the alarm bell over Scotland and the need to counter the SNP.

The trade deal with the EU opens up “huge opportunities” for Scottish businesses, Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said on Thursday. That’s unlikely to placate Scottish companies, already struggling under the burden of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Sturgeon.

“Scotland did not vote for any of this and our position is clearer than ever,” Sturgeon said. “Scotland now has the right to choose its own future as an independent country and once more regain the benefits of EU membership.”

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