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Nicola Sturgeon urges EU to ‘keep the light on’ and says Scotland will be ‘back soon’

Nicola Sturgeon defiantly urged the European Union to ‘keep the light on’ for an independent Scotland as Brexit finally happened.

The Scottish First Minister said her nation would be ‘back soon’ as the UK quit the bloc after more than 40 years. 

Membership of the single market and customs union expired at 11pm – four and a half years after the in-out referendum which sought to settle the issue but sparked political turmoil.

The bells of Big Ben were rung as the UK left both the EU’s single market and the customs union.  

The chimes of Big Ben rang out at 11pm – midnight on the Continent – marking the UK’s departure from the EU’s single market and customs union. 

But the SNP leader Ms Sturgeon, who is strongly opposed to Brexit, wrote on Twitter: ‘Scotland will be back soon, Europe. Keep the light on.’

Nicola Sturgeon urged the European Union to ‘keep the light on’ and said Scotland would be ‘back soon’ as the Brexit transition period came to an end on Thursday.

Scottish first minister Miss Sturgeon, who is strongly opposed to Brexit, wrote on Twitter on Thursday: 'Scotland will be back soon, Europe. Keep the light on'

Scottish first minister Miss Sturgeon, who is strongly opposed to Brexit, wrote on Twitter on Thursday: ‘Scotland will be back soon, Europe. Keep the light on’

Ms Sturgeon heads into Holyrood elections in May expecting to win an overwhelming majority for the SNP, which will increase the pressure on Boris Johnson to allow a new independence referendum, something he is refusing to do.

The nation voted 45-55 in favour of staying part of the UK in 2014, but the latest opinion polls show a majority in favour of a split.

In contrast to her paean to Brussels, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross issued an upbeat New Year message.

‘As the bells ring out at midnight to mark the start of 2021, we should look forward with hope,’ he said.

‘If we pull together as a country, instead of trying to reopen old constitutional wounds, we can rebuild a better, brighter future.’

Ms Sturgeon’s latest hint at her urge to press ahead with making Scotland and independent country came after she savaged Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on Christmas Day.

Hitting out at the agreement reached on Christmas Eve, Miss Sturgeon said the deal showed it was time for Scotland to ‘chart our own future as an independent, European nation’.

She said Britain’s departure was happening against her will and accused the PM of ‘cultural vandalism’ for ending the Erasmus programme, which allows students to study in Europe.   

‘Scotland did not vote for any of this and our position is clearer than ever,’ she said. 

‘Scotland now has the right to choose its own future as an independent country and once more regain the benefits of EU membership.

‘It beggars belief that in the midst of a pandemic and economic recession, Scotland has been forced out of the EU single market and customs union with all the damage to jobs that will bring.

In contrast to her paean to Brussels, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross issued an upbeat New Year message

In contrast to her paean to Brussels, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross issued an upbeat New Year message

The bells of Big Ben were rung the UK left both the EU's single market and the customs union

The bells of Big Ben were rung the UK left both the EU’s single market and the customs union

‘A deal is better than No Deal. But, just because, at the 11th hour, the UK Government has decided to abandon the idea of a No Deal outcome, it should not distract from the fact that they have chosen a hard Brexit, stripping away so many of the benefits of EU membership.

‘And while we do not yet have full details on the nature of the deal, it appears major promises made by the UK Government on fisheries have been broken and the extent of these broken promises will become apparent to all very soon.’

She said people in Scotland had voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, ‘but their views have been ignored’. 

The historic post-Brexit deal with the EU on Christmas Eve came four years after 62 per cent of Scots backed remain in the 2016 referendum.

Miss Sturgeon added: ‘This is a far harder Brexit than could have been imagined when the EU referendum took place, damaging and disrupting this nation’s economy and society at the worst possible time.

‘We are doing everything we can to mitigate against the consequences of the UK Government’s actions – but we cannot avert every negative outcome.

Her latest hint at her urge to press ahead with making Scotland and independent country came after she savaged Boris Johnson's Brexit deal on Christmas Day

 Her latest hint at her urge to press ahead with making Scotland and independent country came after she savaged Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on Christmas Day

‘We know that businesses are already struggling under the burden of Covid-19, and are now faced with the need to prepare for this hard Brexit in little more than a week’s time.

‘We will do all we can to help them and are issuing updated information and advice and urge those most affected, including businesses, to prepare.’ 

Writing on Twitter about the Erasmus programme, Miss Sturgeon said: ‘There will be lots of focus, rightly, on the economic costs of Brexit.

‘But ending UK participation in Erasmus, an initiative that has expanded opportunities and horizons for so many young people, is cultural vandalism by the UK Government.’

Miss Sturgeon’s Scottish Nationalist Party plans to go into next year’s Holyrood elections aiming for a fresh mandate from voters for a second independence referendum.

The first minister has previously said that if Scotland opted for independence she would try to re-join the EU. 

However, questions remain about whether an independent Scotland would be allowed to become a member of the bloc. 

The SNP’s existing currency policy – it seeks to keep the pound – conflicts with the EU’s diktat that all new members must adopt the Euro.  

Membership would also mean giving up control of swathes of policy areas such as over fisheries and possible trade barriers with England.

It could also mean a hard border is imposed between England and Scotland.   

In his New Year message, Mr Johnson - who played a decisive role in the Leave campaign's victory in the referendum - said: 'This is an amazing moment for this country. We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it'

In his New Year message, Mr Johnson – who played a decisive role in the Leave campaign’s victory in the referendum – said: ‘This is an amazing moment for this country. We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it’ 

It remains to be seen if the Brexit deal will increase support for independence among Scots.

In his New Year message, Mr Johnson – who played a decisive role in the Leave campaign’s victory in the referendum – said: ‘This is an amazing moment for this country. We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it.’ 

Referencing the end of the Brexit transition period, the Prime Minister said the UK would be ‘free to do things differently, and if necessary better, than our friends in the EU’ in 2021.

He said Britain will ‘work with partners around the world, not just to tackle climate change but to create the millions of high-skilled jobs this country will need not just this year – 2021 – as we bounce back from Covid, but in the years to come’.

The PM added: ‘I think it will be the overwhelming instinct of the people of this country to come together as one United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland working together to express our values around the world.’

He concluded: ‘I believe 2021 is above all the year when we will eventually do those everyday things that now seem lost in the past. Bathed in a rosy glow of nostalgia, going to the pub, concerts, theatres, restaurants, or simply holding hands with our loved ones in the normal way.

‘We are still a way off from that – there are tough weeks and months ahead. But we can see that illuminated sign that marks the end of the journey, and even more important, we can see with growing clarity how we are going to get there. And that is what gives me such confidence about 2021.’

Under the new arrangements, freedom of movement rights will end, and while UK citizens will still be able to travel for work or pleasure, there will be different rules.

Passports must be valid for more than six months, visas or permits may be needed for long stays, pets will need a health certificate and drivers will need extra documents.

The automatic right to live and work in the EU also ceases, and the UK will no longer take part in the Erasmus student exchange programme. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk