NICOLA Sturgeon will today raise concerns over Brexit in a meeting with the European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.

The First Minister has called on the UK Government to offer more clarity on its plans for the country’s future relationship with the EU, and to “engage properly” with devolved governments across the UK.

She advocates staying inside the customs union and single market, which she sees as “the best possible outcome from Brexit, short of continuing EU membership”.

Barnier expressed frustration at the state of the negotiations last week, claiming the UK was playing “hide and seek” by refusing to spell out exactly what it wants in terms of its future relationship with the EU. In a strongly worded speech in Lisbon, he stressed that “time is and will remain tight”, and called for progress to speed up if details of the future relationship are to be agreed before the Brexit date next March.

The UK Cabinet row centres on future customs arrangements between the UK and EU, with Brexiteer and Remainer members split.

Today’s meeting comes amid the ongoing dispute between the Scottish and UK governments about what should happen to powers over devolved area currently held by Brussels.

Earlier this month Holyrood refused to give consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill amid fears it would undermine the devolution settlement and the principle of MSPs having to give their consent if Westminster legislates in devolved areas.

The First Minister is to hold the meeting while she is in Brussels for the official opening of the expanded Scotland House, a hub for Scottish businesses in Europe.

She said: “People and businesses are desperate for clarity on Brexit, but with just months to go before the withdrawal agreement has to be signed, the UK Government still cannot agree a position. This damaging uncertainty could come to an immediate end if only the UK Government would put jobs and living standards first and agree to continuing single market and customs union membership – for Scotland and the whole of the UK.

“Whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, we are committed to continuing our collaboration, our friendship and our partnership with other European countries. Increasing our presence across the EU is a significant part of maintaining those relationships, and the newly expanded Scotland House has a major part to play in representing Scotland across the whole of the EU.”

Adam Tomkins, constitution spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives – the only party in Holyrood to back giving consent to the Brexit bill – accusing the First Minister of attempting to “weaponise Brexit”.

“Rather than working with the UK Government to do a deal on Brexit, she’s chosen to take a pointless trip to Brussels,” he said. “It’s becoming ever more obvious Nicola Sturgeon wants to create a political crisis to justify her continued push for independence. Instead of acting in Scotland’s best interests, the SNP is acting according to their own narrow political agenda.”

Meanwhile, farmers and food producers have urged May to ensure they can continue to hire overseas workers after Brexit. The demand is part of a manifesto by more than 100 key players in the sector including the leaders of the National Farmers’ Union and the Food and Drink Federation, which wants the UK Government to publish an immigration white paper setting out its plans as soon as possible.

Other issues raised in the document include:

l maintaining “frictionless” trade with the EU and preserving the existing trade deals struck by Brussels with countries around the world – at least until the UK can secure acceptable alternatives

l developing an agriculture policy which promotes food production while maintaining existing high environmental, health and animal welfare standards

l ensuring an “efficient and proportionate” regulatory system.

The manifesto has been sent to the Prime Minister by NFU president Minette Batters, who said the food and farming sector was worth at least £112 billion to the UK economy and employs around four million people.

She said that in the manifesto the authors warn, as a collective, “that a Brexit that fails to champion UK food producers, and the businesses that rely on them, will be bad for the country’s landscape, the economy and, critically, our society.”