NICOLA Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart have asked EU leaders for a lengthy delay to Brexit after Boris Johnson’s grudging request on Saturday.
In a joint letter to EU Council president Donald Tusk, the two first ministers backed a delay long enough to hold a second EU referendum, meaning well into mid-2020.
Ms Sturgeon and Labour’s Mark Drakeford also wrote to Mr Johnson saying the devolved parliaments needed more time to consider the legislation associated with his deal.
They urged him to delay Brexit so that Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff could “carry out their proper constitutional and democratic functions” of scrutinising his plans.
And they warned there was “insufficient opportunity to undertake this essential scrutiny” before the Prime Minister’s “doe or die” deadline of October 31.
Ms Sturgeon is also seeking an emergency recall of Holyrood from its October recess this week so that MSPs can discuss Mr Johnson's Brexit plan on Thursday.
MPs voted on Saturday to delay a decision on Mr Johnson’s deal until the Commons and Lords had passed the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) needed to put it into effect.
This triggered the Benn Act which forced the PM to request a delay until at least January 31, albeit a minimal one he didn’t sign.
He also sent a second letter repeating his objections to a delay.
As the WAB will be vulnerable to scores of amendments and delays, it will be very difficult for the PM to get through Westminster by Hallowe’en unless he rams it through.
Although Downing Street has warned the EU might refuse an extension if MPs do not fall in line, a senior German minister today said he fully expected a delay to be granted.
In their letter to Mr Johnson, Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford urge the PM to “to comply fully and in good faith” with the Benn Act and ensure a delay took place to avoid no-deal.
They wrote: “This Bill will be among the most important piece of legislation ever considered by the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales with far-reaching implications for the whole of the United Kingdom and our future well-being.
“Both our governments believe the deal you have negotiated with the EU will be even more damaging to Wales, Scotland and the United Kingdom than the previous unacceptable agreement made by your predecessor.
“We therefore wish to state in the clearest possible terms that we and our legislatures need time to analyse and consider the draft Bill. We share the view which lay behind the amendment passed by a clear majority of the House of Commons that the time between now and 31 October provides insufficient opportunity to undertake this essential scrutiny.
“It is essential that your government respects devolution, the legislative consent process and any decisions on consent that the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly may reach.”
In their letter to Mr Tusk, the two first ministers also said more time was needed on the WAB.
They wrote: “The concern that Parliament could not in any way adequately undertake the scrutiny of the Bill in a 10 day period, as required in the absence of an extension, lay behind the decision of the House of Commons to withhold its approval of the Withdrawal Agreement ‘unless and until the implementing legislation is passed’.
“This is a concern we fully share.
“It is simply impossible for us to fulfil our constitutional responsibilities in this timescale, which is dictated by the way in which the Prime Minister delayed tabling formal proposals.
“An extension would allow us to adequately scrutinise the agreement and the draft legislation in accordance with our constitutional responsibilities.
“While clearly it is a matter for the Council to consider how long such an extension should be, we would favour one which is long enough to enable a referendum with remain on the ballot paper to be held in the UK.
“Both of our Governments and legislatures are in favour of such a referendum and of the UK remaining in the EU.
"We would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere thanks for your consistent efforts to ensure the option of the UK remaining in the EU is not closed off on the EU side.”