At odds over Brexit, three UK na­tions dis­cuss how to co­op­er­ate on terms

Brexit op­posed by ma­jor­ity in Scot­land, North­ern Ire­land

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The lead­ers of Scot­land, North­ern Ire­land and Wales met Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May yes­ter­day to dis­cuss what part the three na­tions will play in the Brexit process, a thorny is­sue that risks trig­ger­ing a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis. May pro­poses set­ting up a new com­mit­tee to give the three de­volved gov­ern­ments, which have vary­ing de­grees of au­ton­omy from Lon­don, a for­mal av­enue to ex­press views on how Bri­tain’s fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with the Euro­pean Union should work.

“The coun­try is fac­ing a ne­go­ti­a­tion of tremen­dous im­por­tance and it is im­per­a­tive that the de­volved ad­min­is­tra­tions play their part in making it work,” May said in a state­ment her of­fice re­leased be­fore the meet­ing. At stake is the three-cen­tury union be­tween Eng­land, where a ma­jor­ity voted to leave the EU, and Scot­land, where a ma­jor­ity voted to stay.

Scot­tish First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon said yes­ter­day she was seek­ing “mean­ing­ful in­put” into the de­ci­sion­mak­ing struc­ture and wants each of the United King­dom’s four as­sem­blies to get a vote on the pro­posed ne­go­ti­at­ing pack­age. Stur­geon has said her govern­ment is pre­par­ing for all pos­si­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing in­de­pen­dence from the UK, af­ter Bri­tain leaves the EU. In North­ern Ire­land, which also voted to keep EU mem­ber­ship, there are fears that Brexit could un­der­mine a 1998 peace deal and re­in­state a hard border with the Repub­lic of Ire­land.

Ex­perts have warned of the risk of a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis if May does not take into ac­count the po­si­tion of each of the UK’s four na­tions when con­duct­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions on the terms of Brexit. “Im­pos­ing a Brexit set­tle­ment in the face of de­volved op­po­si­tion (while legally pos­si­ble) would be a reck­less strat­egy,” said the In­sti­tute for Govern­ment, an in­de­pen­dent think-tank. “Scot­land, Wales and North­ern Ire­land can­not be treated like any other lobby or in­ter­est group. Equally, the de­volved gov­ern­ments will have to ac­cept that West­min­ster will have the final say,” it said in a re­port.

The new com­mit­tee pro­posed by May would be chaired by Brexit min­is­ter David Davis and in­clude rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the three de­volved gov­ern­ments. May pro­poses that it should meet by the end of Novem­ber and at least once more be­fore Christ­mas. Stur­geon has said Scot­land wants to keep as many of the ad­van­tages of mem­ber­ship of the EU’s sin­gle mar­ket as it can and is look­ing for a be­spoke deal to do so. The Bri­tish govern­ment, how­ever, has said it will ne­go­ti­ate a one-size-fits-all Brexit deal on be­half of the whole United King­dom.

May’s spokes­woman said yes­ter­day the UK needed a sin­gle na­tion­wide po­si­tion go­ing into Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, and May ex­pected the de­volved gov­ern­ments not to un­der­mine the over­all Brexit talks by con­duct­ing their own ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Welsh First Min­is­ter Car­wyn Jones said Wales, where a ma­jor­ity voted to leave the EU, wanted to play a full, pos­i­tive and ac­tive part in the Brexit process and hoped the ap­proach would be re­cip­ro­cated by Lon­don. “If UK Gov can’t ne­go­ti­ate po­si­tion with de­volved na­tions lit­tle hope of ne­go­ti­at­ing a good Brexit deal with 27 coun­tries,” he said on Twit­ter.— Reuters

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