Monday 23 October 2017

Sturgeon warns Scotland has the legal means to block Brexit

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

Simon Johnson

Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the Scottish Parliament will try to block the UK leaving the EU using an obscure legal mechanism, even if it infuriates the English.

The First Minister said Brexit requires a legislative consent motion (LCM) from the Scottish Parliament because it impacts directly on Holyrood's devolved responsibilities.

She confirmed that SNP MSPs would seek to block any such motion, even if this meant that it blocked the UK from leaving the EU, arguing that this would reflect the overwhelming Remain vote in Scotland.

The SDLP later echoed her intervention, warning that the Northern Irish "have the right to say no".

The threat raises the prospect of a prolonged legal battle over enacting the result of last Thursday's referendum, which saw the Scots and Northern Irish vote by overwhelming margins to Remain. But David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, and Theresa Villiers, his counterpart in Northern Ireland, said the devolved administrations cannot veto Brexit.

James Chalmers, regius professor of Law at the University of Glasgow, said it could only make the process more "awkward" by rejecting the LCM.

In a series of television interviews yesterday, Ms Sturgeon also warned that the next prime minister would be fighting a losing battle to stop her staging a second independence referendum, arguing that the UK that the Scots voted to remain in two years ago no longer exists.

She also rejected the suggestion that a European Commission briefing note to MEPs means Scotland would not be permitted to stay in the EU, while the rest of the UK comes out, saying the situation was completely unprecedented and there were "no rules".

An LCM is a motion passed by the Scottish Parliament in which it agrees that Westminster can pass legislation over devolved areas. The First Minister was asked about a Lords briefing note stating that Scotland would have to agree to Brexit in order to remove European legislation from Scots law.

She said: "The issue you are talking about is would there have to be a legislative consent motion or motions for the legislation that extricates the UK from the European Union?

"Looking at it from a logical perspective, I find it hard to believe that there wouldn't be that requirement - I suspect that the UK government will take a very different view on that and we'll have to see where that discussion ends up."

Pressed on whether she would consider asking the Scottish Parliament not to back such a motion of legislative consent, she replied: "Of course."

She added: "If the Scottish Parliament was judging this on the basis of what's right for Scotland then the option of saying, 'Look, we're not to vote for something that's against Scotland's interest', of course that's got to be on the table."

Asked if she could imagine the fury of the English if she blocked Brexit, she said: "I can, but perhaps it's similar to the fury of many people in Scotland right now as we face the prospect of being taken out of the EU against our will."

Colum Eastwood, the SDLP leader, said: "I don't think the Leave campaign have thought this through. We believe that the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament have the opportunity to say no."

Irish Independent

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