Brexit Risks ‘Constitutional Crisis’ Between U.K.’s Nations

  • May urged to work with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Prime minister will meet first ministers in London on Monday

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U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May risks provoking a “full-blown constitutional crisis” unless she finds a way to involve the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in her Brexit talks, the Institute for Government said in a report published Monday.

“As with a dog walking on its hind legs, we should be impressed if the four governments manage to work together at all,” said Akash Paun, a fellow at the London-based advisory group. “But when it comes to Brexit, the stakes are high. If the dog topples over after a few tentative steps, and consensus cannot be reached, the result could be a constitutional crisis.”

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May is due to meet Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Wales’s Carwyn Jones and Northern Ireland’s Arlene Foster on Monday to discuss Britain’s departure from the European Union. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted against Brexit, and politicians from both nations have expressed concerns.

While May has no constitutional duty to consult the first ministers, to ignore them would be a “reckless strategy,” the institute said. Sturgeon has threatened another referendum on independence if she doesn’t like the terms that May negotiates with the EU. Imposing a Brexit settlement on Northern Ireland could provoke a resurgence of sectarian tensions.

The IFG proposed a committee of Brexit ministers from each country to keep the regional governments engaged and find areas of agreement.

“I want Monday’s meeting to be the start of a new grown up relationship between the devolved administrations and the U.K. government -- one in which we all work together to forge the future for everyone in the United Kingdom,” May said in a statement Sunday.

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