May to Meet Leaders of Devolved U.K. Administrations

Updated on
  • Talks with devolved administrations to take place in Wales
  • Supreme Court rules only U.K. Parliament need approve Brexit

UK's Hilary Benn: Parliament Will Vote to Back Brexit

Prime Minister Theresa May will hold talks with leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on Monday, less than a week after the U.K.’s highest court ruled the three semi-autonomous governments have no legal right to challenge Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Among U.K. ministers joining May at the meeting will be Brexit Secretary David Davis and Trade Secretary Liam Fox, according to a statement released by May’s office in London. The talks will be held in the Welsh capital, Cardiff.

In its ruling on Jan. 24, the Supreme Court decided that triggering the process of leaving the EU will require the approval of the U.K. Parliament, but not the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish legislatures. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said promises by the U.K. government to consult lawmakers in Scotland are now “not worth the paper they are written on,” hardening the prospect of another referendum on breaking away from the U.K.

“We will not agree on everything but that doesn’t mean we will shy away from the necessary conversation and I hope we will have further constructive discussions,” May said in a statement ahead of the talks. The Supreme Court judgment “made clear beyond doubt that relations with the EU are a matter for the U.K. government and the U.K. Parliament.”

The prime minister said lawmakers “will be fully involved” in passing a bill to back Article 50, the formal trigger that sets Britain on course to leave the EU. Sturgeon said on Monday she’ll call on May to set out how she intends to get U.K.-wide agreement on the goals of her negotiations.

Brexit Mandate

“Time is running out for the prime minister to demonstrate that she is going to uphold the commitment she made to me shortly after taking office that Scotland will be fully involved in discussions to develop an agreed U.K. approach and listen to alternative proposals,” Sturgeon said in an e-mailed statement. “The process has been deeply disappointing so far. The prime minister must start to demonstrate not only that the U.K. government is genuinely listening to the views of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but also that they are prepared to act on them.”

Sturgeon laid out Scotland’s red lines for Brexit in a 50-page policy paper in December that included keeping Scottish membership of the single market and retaining free movement of people. On Monday, the Times of London reported that Scottish leaders are debating adopting a similar approach in the event of winning a vote for independence from the U.K. Scotland would seek a Norway-style model outside the EU and its customs union, but inside the single market, the newspaper said.

May claims a mandate for Brexit after the U.K. voted to leave and she wants to begin the formal process by the end of March. Yet within Scotland, support for staying in the bloc was overwhelming. Scotland’s influence is now limited to the House of Commons, where the Scottish National Party’s 54 lawmakers are seeking to challenge what they see as the “hard Brexit,” with the U.K. outside the single market, proposed by May.

In Wales, where voters backed leaving the EU, three lawmakers from the Plaid Cymru party want to amend the Article 50 bill to make sure the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish administrations get a say in the final deal negotiated with the EU.

The meeting Monday also comes against a backdrop of political turmoil in Northern Ireland, where elections take place on March 2 following the collapse of the power-sharing assembly. While a bitter election campaign may harden divisions in the region over Brexit, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire insists there will be no effect on the timing of triggering Article 50.

— With assistance by Alex Morales

(Updates with comment from Sturgeon starting in fifth paragraph.)
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