Parliament gave its approval on Monday to begin the process of Britain leaving the EU – better known as ‘Brexit’ – but the ruling party in Scotland has sent Westminster to a tizzy with the demand for ‘Scexit’: another referendum on leaving the United Kingdom.
The two ‘exits’ go to the heart of the Leave and Remain camps reflected in the June 2016 EU referendum, when 52% voted to remain and 28% leave. Scotland voted 62% to remain in the EU, which is driving the demand for another independence referendum. Both outcomes – Brexit and Scotland independence referendum – are riddled with a haze of complexities, but are closely linked that will test Prime Minister Theresa May to the hilt.
For now, Scotland’s referendum demand on Monday delayed the Brexit firing shot.
May was supposed to send to Brussels on Tuesday the notification invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that sets out the process of an EU member state to leave the union. That will now happen by the end of this month, she confirmed.
The House of Lords on Monday night agreed not to insist on the two amendments to the Brexit bill it had passed last week. Earlier in the day, the House of Commons had overturned the amendments and sent the bill again to the upper house. Now armed with parliamentary approval, May is on course to deliver Brexit, but found herself mired in politics related to Scotland’s referendum that has the potential of further complicating the Brexit process, if not undoing it.
Both houses of parliament need to approve holding another referendum in Scotland, but even though May has signalled her opposition to it, a clear message from the Scottish parliament on the referendum cannot be ignored by London.
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants the referendum to be held between Autumn 2018 and spring 2019, which is close to the mid-2019 target when the two-year process of exiting the EU under Article 50 will end, bringing with it several complexities.
Sturgeon, who would like an independent Scotland to remain a member of the EU, was told by London on Tuesday it would have to reapply for membership, which could take years. But the message from Edinburgh to May is not to stand in the way of the second referendum.
Calling the situation May’s ‘home made crisis’, The Guardian commented: “Theresa May ...may have precipitated Scotland’s departure from the UK… Nicola Sturgeon’s strongest argument may not be that material circumstances have changed since 2014 because an English majority voted to leave the EU, but the disregard that the prime minister has shown for all those who voted to remain”.
Nigel Farage, UK Independence Party leader, expressed his frustration that Article 50 was not being triggered on Tuesday: “It’s been nine months since that joyous morning on June 24 when we realised that Brexit had won the referendum. Nine months - a full gestation - and still no delivery”.
“Of course I’m disappointed. I’m pleased that we are through all these hurdles, but I’m just a bit surprised that Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement should have put the prime minister off. Now that we are delaying the triggering of Article 50, what it means is that we will miss the summit of European leaders on April 6 at which Brexit could practicably have been discussed. Therefore, we’ve kicked it into the long grass until May”.