Reuters International

Scotland's first Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks at the Institute of Directors convention in London, Britain, September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville


By Elisabeth O'Leary

GLASGOW (Reuters) - Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will seek to unite and lead political opposition throughout Britain to any "hard Brexit", according to a speech to be given on Thursday.

She will tell her Scottish National Party's (SNP) conference that the path taken by Prime Minister Theresa May since Britain voted to leave the EU in June - which has seen heavy falls in the pound - is one of "economic recklessness."

"The (Conservatives) are holding (the referendum result) up as cover for a hard Brexit that they have no mandate for – but which they are determined to impose, regardless of the ruinous consequences," she will tell the conference, which opens on Thursday.

"Brexit has become Tory (Conservative) Brexit," Sturgeon will tell the SNP, by far the dominant Scottish party at Westminster with 56 of Scotland's 59 seats in the UK parliament.

Scotland voted 62 percent to 38 percent to stay in the EU.

"I suspect that many of those who voted to Leave (the EU) now look at the actions and rhetoric of the (British government) and think 'that's not what I voted for'."

Sturgeon will seek to head a group of opposition lawmakers including Labour and Liberal Democrat parliamentarians, as well as some members of May's own Conservative Party, she will say.

May has vowed to restore sovereignty and increase controls over migration, leading to a growing perception that Britain is on course for a "hard" Brexit where restricting immigration takes priority over retaining access to Europe's single market.

Britain's government has a working majority of just 16 seats in the 650-seat Westminster parliament.

However, uniting opposition to a hard Brexit will be a tall order. The main opposition Labour Party has been consumed by infighting over its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is supported by its membership base but not by senior party members.

Some of Sturgeon's own SNP party supported leaving the EU, according to opinion polls carried out earlier this year.

Sturgeon will also tell delegates in Glasgow that the SNP will vote against the "Great Repeal Bill" which is designed to end the European Union's legal supremacy in the UK by converting all EU laws into British law as soon as Britain leaves.

The bill is expected to be introduced to parliament next year.

The prospect of leaving the EU has upset many Scots, including some of those who voted "no" to an independent Scotland two years ago because they feared independence would mean losing EU membership.

Polls indicate, however, that Brexit has not significantly boosted support for Scotland to split from the rest of the UK either. The SNP says the possibility of a fresh referendum following the Brexit vote should be an option for Scotland.

(Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Dominic Evans)


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