By Matthew Tempest
(EurActiv) — Theresa May, the new British prime minister, said Friday (15 July) that Article 50, triggering Brexit, would not be filed until there was a full “UK approach and objectives” – suggesting Scotland would have a major say.
She made the comments after meeting Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in Edinburgh – her first trip, domestic or foreign, since becoming PM on Wednesday.
Scotland voted universally to remain in the EU – as did London, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar – but the overall UK voted 52-48 to Leave in the 23 June referendum.
Edinburgh is now keen to find some way of retaining some of the benefits of EU membership, short of the ‘nuclear option’ of forcing a second independence referendum and applying to rejoin.
May told ITV after her meeting with Sturgeon, “I’m willing to listen to options and I’ve been very clear with the first minister today that I want the Scottish government to be fully engaged in our discussions.
“I have already said that I won’t be triggering Article 50 until I think that we have a UK approach and objectives for negotiations – I think it is important that we establish that before we trigger Article 50.”
Sturgeon, ahead of the meeting, had told the press she hoped the PM would “respect how the people in Scotland voted”.
“Theresa May and I hold very different political views and we’ve got perhaps different views on what should happen now in terms of the Brexit vote,” Sturgeon told STV television on Thursday.
“My position is that I respect how people in other parts of the UK voted; I hope the prime minister will respect how people in Scotland voted.”
While 52% of voters across the UK backed leaving the EU, 62% in Scotland opted for Britain to remain in the bloc.
As both the UK and EU head into what all agree are unchartered waters, there are various – highly putatative – options for Scotland, but having a major say in the UK negotiating position, to be decided before Brexit is triggered, may be the most plausible.
May appointed a trio of hardcore Brexiteers, Boris Johnson as foreign secretary, Liam Fox as international trade secretary, David Davis as Brexit minister, this week to negotiate leaving the 28-member bloc.
By that she pleased the right of the Conservative party, and UKIP, while also leaving the option open of blaming them if negotiations go badly.
In heading swiftly to Edinburgh, May was emphasising her strong support for the union and for keeping Sturgeon’s devolved administration involved in the Brexit negotiations, a Downing Street spokesman said.
“I believe with all my heart in the United Kingdom,” May said in a statement Friday.
“This visit to Scotland is my first as prime minister and I’m coming here to show my commitment to preserving this special union.”
Meanwhile, the funeral was held Friday in West Yorkshire of the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, who was killed during the referendum campaign.
The local man accused of her murder gave his name in court as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.