Two days before beginning the Brexit process – dubbed “Black Wednesday” by the pro-EU media – Prime Minister Theresa May travelled to Scotland on Monday for consultations as the ruling party in Edinburgh demanded another referendum on independence.
On March 29, May is due to send the formal notification to Brussels invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that sets out a two-year process for a member country to leave the European Union. Keen to remain in the EU, Scotland’s ruling party wants to hold a referendum on leaving the UK.
According to May, Brexit is an opportunity to strengthen the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom. She has already rejected holding the referendum before the UK is due to leave the EU by March 2019, as demanded by first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
May said in a speech in East Kilbride: “(When) this great union of nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – sets its mind on something and works together with determination, we are an unstoppable force.
“That is why the Plan for Britain I have set out – a plan to get the right deal for Britain abroad as well as a better deal for ordinary, working people at home – has as its heart one over-arching goal: to build a more united nation.
“So as Britain leaves the EU, and we forge a new role for ourselves in the world, the strength and stability of our Union will become even more important,” May said, as Downing Street clarified that the prime minister’s talks with Strugeon were on Article 50 and not on the referendum demand.
Keen to ensure that the May government does not take its support for granted, the opposition Labour Party on Monday laid down six tests for the final Brexit deal: a fair migration system for UK business and communities, retaining a strong, collaborative relationship with the EU, protecting national security and tackling cross-border crime, delivering for all nations and regions of the UK, protecting workers' rights and employment protections, and ensuring same benefits currently enjoyed within the European single market.
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said May "should be under no illusion", adding Labour would not support a deal "that fails to reflect core British values and the six tests I have set out today".
He said, "All of us want the best for Britain. But the stakes are high and the prime minister's approach so far does not bode well.”