May-Stur­geon re­la­tions worsen over Brexit date ‘snub’

Pol­i­tics: Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment left in the dark about start date for exit ne­go­ti­a­tions

The Press and Journal (Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY LIND­SAY RAZAQ WEST­MIN­STER RE­PORTER

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Theresa May and Ni­cola Stur­geon showed no signs of thaw­ing last night af­ter it emerged Scot­tish min­is­ters were left in the dark about the start date for Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Down­ing Street con­firmed yes­ter­day that the prime min­is­ter will for­mally trig­ger EU with­drawal talks on March 29.

The news was con­veyed to the of­fice of Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk by Bri­tain’s am­bas­sador to the EU Sir Tim Bar­row.

And Num­ber 10 sub­se­quently in­formed jour­nal­ists at a West­min­ster brief­ing.

But it quickly ma­te­ri­alised that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment was not told about the plans be­fore they were pub­licly an­nounced.

Pushed to clar­ify whether no­ti­fi­ca­tion had been given, the prime min­is­ter’s of­fi­cial spokesman said: “We are in­form­ing you all es­sen­tially now.”

Asked whether Ms Stur­geon had re­ceived a phone call, he added: “We don’t get into pre­cise de­tails of ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion which we have.”

The spokesman also re­fused to con­firm whether the for­mal Ar­ti­cle 50 no­ti­fi­ca­tion let­ter would be shared or dis­cussed with the de­volved gov­ern­ments be­fore it is is­sued next week.

He said he would not go into de­tails in ad­vance, adding: “There will be more op­por­tu­ni­ties for dis­cus­sion with the de­volved ad­min­is­tra­tions be­tween now and Ar­ti­cle 50 be­ing trig­gered.”

Scot­land’s Brexit Min­is­ter Mike Rus­sell, in­volved through­out the process via the joint min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee (JMC), com­plained fu­ri­ously that he had only heard the news from the me­dia and that the UK Gov­ern­ment “some­how for­got to in­form us”.

A spokesman for Scot­land’s first min­is­ter added: “The fact the UK Gov­ern­ment failed to prop­erly and fully in­form all of the de­volved ad­min­is­tra­tions on the plans for trig­ger­ing Ar­ti­cle 50 speaks vol­umes – and to­tally ex­poses as empty rhetoric West­min­ster’s lan­guage about equal part­ner­ship.”

But a UK Gov­ern­ment source de­scribed the step as “ad­vance no­ti­fi­ca­tion of the no­ti­fi­ca­tion”.

A spokesman added: “The UK has not yet in­voked Ar­ti­cle 50. We have al­ways said we in­tended to do so be­fore the end of March.

“All that has hap­pened is we have con­firmed the pre­cise date on which we in­tend to in­voke in re­sponse to mount­ing spec­u­la­tion.

“We are de­ter­mined to ne­go­ti­ate for an out­come

that works for ev­ery na­tion and re­gion of the UK.”

Mrs May, who con­firmed she had dis­cussed the mat­ter with Welsh first min­is­ter Car­wyn Jones dur­ing her visit to Swansea, added: “I have al­ways said it would be be­fore the end of March and we will con­tinue talk­ing to them (the de­volved ad­min­is­tra­tions).” The row blew up amid in­creas­ing ten­sion be­tween Ed­in­burgh and London af­ter Ms Stur­geon an­nounced plans to seek to hold a se­cond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

While the UK as a whole backed the coun­try’s de­par­ture from the EU last year, 62% of vot­ers north of the border wanted to re­main. SNP min­is­ters in­sist the re­sult pro­vides a “ca­st­iron man­date” for an­other poll, given the party’s man­i­festo for the 2016 Scot­tish Par­lia­ment elec­tions.

A ma­jor­ity of MSPs are ex­pected to back the call at the end of a Holy­rood de­bate tomorrow. This would pave the way for a for­mal re­quest for a Sec­tion 30 or­der, the le­gal mech­a­nism al­low­ing an in­de­pen­dence vote to be called.

But the UK Gov­ern­ment con­firmed last week one would not be granted, with Mrs May in­sist­ing “now is not the time”. Once the Ar­ti­cle 50 cor­re­spon­dence is pro­vided to the Euro­pean Coun­cil, it will set in train a two-year ne­go­ti­a­tion process ex­pected to lead the UK out of the EU on March 29, 2019.

Michael Rus­sell MSP

IN THE LOOP: Theresa May dis­cussed the Brexit start date with Welsh first min­is­ter Car­wyn Jones in Swansea yes­ter­day

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.