A no-deal Brexit may be the “most likely outcome” of negotiations, Nicola Sturgeon has told MSPs.
The prime minister said that while the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc were 95% agreed, there remained an “impasse” over the issue of the Irish border.
Sturgeon said she was “increasingly concerned” about the prospect of leaving without an agreement, adding that the UK Government was “shutting down” negotiating space with EU leaders.
Speaking to Holyrood’s committee conveners, she said: “Almost with every day that passes right now, instead of the UK government opening up negotiating space that increases the possibility of reaching a deal that then can attract political support, they seem to be closing down that negotiating space and digging themselves deeper into the hole they’ve got themselves in.
“I am increasingly concerned, literally with every day that passes right now, that the prospect of a no deal is becoming ever greater.
“As things stand just now I think no deal may actually be the most likely outcome, and that is deeply concerning.
“Given that we are two years on from the vote, five months away from exit, it is staggering incompetence that the government has allowed the situation to get to this stage.
“I think Brexit is frankly shaping up to be the biggest failure of government policy and handling of a situation that any of us have ever seen perhaps in our entire lifetimes.”
Sturgeon said the UK was getting into territory where the extension of Article 50 “couldn’t and shouldn’t be ruled out”.
The UK is due to leave the EU in March, with Theresa May under increasing pressure to find a breakthrough in time after a lack of progress at last week’s summit with European leaders.
The two sides have been unable to agree on the so-called Northern Ireland “backstop”, intended to guarantee there is no return to a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
Meanwhile there have been new revelations about the government’s plans for a no-deal Brexit, with alternative measures to secure supplies of food and medicines from the continent being investigated in case of chaos on the English Channel crossing.
Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s interventions on Brexit are entirely predictable.
“She doesn’t want it to happen or be a success, and will do everything she can to be an obstacle.
“It wouldn’t matter how much Scotland stood to benefit from the UK leaving the EU, the first minister would still stand in the way.”