NICOLA Sturgeon has questioned the UK Government’s ability to negotiate Brexit as she called for talks to be paused following the General Election.

After Theresa May saw her majority wiped out in last week’s vote, the First Minister said a UK-wide consensus should be adopted for the Brexit talks to allow the devolved governments a greater say.

Membership of the European single market and the customs union must be at the heart of a new approach, with an immediate guarantee for the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, she said.

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Sturgeon’s party won 35 seats in last week’s General Election, down 21 from 2015.

Speaking to reporters as the SNP’s new parliamentary group met at Westminster, Sturgeon said a hard Brexit was “no longer viable” and urged ministers to change their approach.

She said: “The idea that the UK led by this Prime Minister and this government can just blunder into negotiations starting one week today, I just don’t think it’s a credible proposition.”

Speculation has been rife in Westminster that the State Opening of Parliament could be delayed after the Prime Minister’s official spokesman declined to confirm it would go ahead as scheduled on June 19.

Sturgeon said: “Now that the Queen’s Speech has been postponed, questions have been raised about what has been cooked up behind closed doors and is it possible for this Prime Minister — notwithstanding what she said on Friday — to put together a government that is functional and sustainable?

“It is an opportunity, perhaps — I know the arithmetic, I am not blind to the hurdles — but it perhaps means an opportunity for a progressive alternative to a Tory/DUP government.”

Calls to keep Scotland in the single market have previously been rejected by the UK Government, prompting Sturgeon to request that a second Scottish independence referendum take place when the terms of Brexit are known and before the UK leaves the EU.

She has turned her focus to the UK’s Brexit approach as political leaders including Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson call for more consensus.

The SNP’s proposals include the involvement of the devolved governments in the negotiations, and a cross-party advisory group to be set up with representatives from the devolved administrations, to agree a new position for the UK and oversee the talks.

With May forging a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to support a minority government, the SNP has also called for representation for both sides of the political debate in Northern Ireland in the advisory group.

Sturgeon said: “In what is a very unstable situation for the UK Government it is essential that time is taken to secure a consensus over the approach to Brexit negotiations.

“The Tories’ hard Brexit plan has been rejected and we cannot allow the Brexit negotiations to become hostage to the inability of either the Tories or Labour to command a clear majority.

“The strongest possible position in the Brexit negotiations will be one that is backed by all parties and all governments across the UK.

“As a first step it is now imperative that the UK Government takes a short pause before beginning negotiations to work with others to put together a new position — one that is truly based on the interests of the whole of the UK.”

She added: “And at the heart of this position must be maintaining our place in the single market and in the customs union. That is where common ground lies.

“The SNP and the Scottish Government are ready to begin discussions around such a position immediately and I call on all parties to come together to build a new way forward.”

Speaking on Saturday, Davidson said: “I want to ensure that we can look again at issues like Brexit which we know we are now going to have to get cross-party support for. And move to a consensus within the country about what it means and what we seek to achieve as we leave.’’ May’s official spokesman said: “We gave a commitment right at the very outset of this process to consult with the devolved administrations and that remains the case.”

Brexit negotiations are due to begin next Monday with talks focused on the EU/UK financial settlement, the protection of the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, and UK nationals living in the EU. The issue of the Irish border is also a key priority in the talks. May’s minority government is being propped up by the DUP, who favour a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.