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Boris Johnson gets booed as he arrives at Bute House to speak with Nicola Sturgeon

Johnson today announced a £300 million package of investment for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to “strengthen the union”.

An awkward handshake between Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and British PM Boris Johnson.
An awkward handshake between Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and British PM Boris Johnson.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Updated Jul 29th 2019, 8:30 PM

PRIME MINISTER BORIS Johnson was loudly booed as he arrived at Bute House in Edinburgh to meet with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Crowds gathered outside the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland chanted and shouted insults at the new British leader before both he and Sturgeon were ushered inside.

Johnson had said earlier that his government is aiming to get a Brexit deal, and promised to “hold out the hand” and go the extra “thousand miles” to do so.

He also said that if there is goodwill from EU negotiators, that the chances of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October are “a million to one”.

In his first visit to Scotland as UK Prime Minister, he announced an investment that he says will “strengthen the union” and visited a military base before he also met with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who has been opposed to a no-deal Brexit.

The £300 million (€332 million) package of new investment is for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and was revealed by Johnson during a visit to a military base.

He said that the UK is a “global brand and together we are safer, stronger and more prosperous”, according to a statement released by his Downing Street Office.

Boris Johnson visit to Scotland Source: PA Wire/PA Images

“Important projects like the government’s growth deals… will open up opportunities across our union so people in every corner of the United Kingdom can realise their potential.”

As we prepare for our bright future after Brexit, it’s vital we renew the ties that bind our United Kingdom.

Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party, said earlier in the week that the London government was driving the country towards a “disaster”, and that Scotland needed an “alternative option” to Johnson’s Brexit strategy.

In a statement following the meeting, a No 10 spokesperson said that Johnson told Sturgeon that he was “a passionate believer in the power of the Union and he would work tirelessly to strengthen the United Kingdom and improve the lives of people right across Scotland”.

On Brexit, the Prime Minister said that while the government’s preference is to negotiate a new deal which abolishes the anti-democratic backstop, the UK will be leaving the EU on October 31st come what may. 

Johnson said that he would work with the Scottish government and other devolved administrations to make sure “all corners of the UK are ready to enjoy a bright future outside the EU”. BBC correspondent Nick Eardley tweeted that Johnson then left Bute House through the back door.

When Johnson was asked by a pool of reporters, including the BBC, whether he agreed with Michael Gove’s assertion at the weekend that a no-deal was the most likely Brexit outcome, he said:

“No, absolutely not. My assumption is that we can get a new deal, we’re aiming for a new deal. But, of course, Michael is absolutely right that it’s responsible for any government to prepare for a no deal if we absolutely have to.

My approach is to be very outward-going, I don’t want the UK to be aloof or hanging back, I want us to engage to hold out the hand, to go the extra thousand miles.
What we want to do is make it absolutely clear that the backstop is no good, it’s dead, it’s got to go… But there is scope to do a new deal.

When asked whether he thought the odds of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October were a million to one claim, he said:

Provided there is sufficient goodwill and common sense on the part of our partners, that is exactly where I would put the odds.

His spokeswoman, Alison Donnelly said that “he remains confident that the EU will stop claiming that the withdrawal agreement can’t be changed”.

Election mode

Johnson’s trip to Scotland comes after he made another infrasture pledge while on a visit to the north of England on Saturday by promising a new Manchester-Leeds rail link.

He also announced a £3.6 billion fund supporting 100 towns in England, raising suggestions that he is already in campaign mode for an election.

The Scottish trip is the first stop on a tour of the countries that make up the United Kingdom, as he attempts to win support for his Brexit plans and head off talk of a break-up of the union.

Johnson has promised that the UK will leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal. Upon taking office last week, Johnson also took the symbolic title of Minister for the Union.

Beef

On this side of the Irish Sea, Minister for Agriculture has announced a €120 million injection into the beef sector which the minister said should help mitigate against low prices.

The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure will be funded by a combination the Irish exchequer and EU exceptional.

“I am keenly aware that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers,” the minister said this morning.

There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

The voluntary scheme is available to farmers that meet certain criteria laid out by the Department of Agriculture.

- with reporting by AFP 2019 and the Associated Press. Updated by Gráinne Ní Aodha

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Rónán Duffy

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