Jun 26

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Not So Fast: Scotland And Northern Ireland May Have Brexit Veto Rights

Scotland Threatens To Veto Brexit:

Yesterday we warned that the biggest threat to the UK political process in the aftermath of the Friday referendum is neither an arguably fake petition to hold another referendum (it won’t happen), nor the so-called buyer’s remorse on the side of “Leave” voters, especially with ComRes confirming a negligible 1% of those voters were “Unhappy” with the outcome…

…but rather a surprising discovery in a UK government Command Paper laying out “The Process of withdrawing from the European Union“, which goes through the process of invoking the infamous Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, and notes that there may be a rather substantial hurdle to the actual Brexit process: a Scottish and/or Northern Irish veto to Britain’s separation from the EU. To wit:

The role of the devolved legislatures in implementing the withdrawal agreement:

We asked Sir David whether he thought the Scottish Parliament would have to give its consent to measures extinguishing the application of EU law in Scotland. He noted that such measures would entail amendment of section 29 of the Scotland Act 1998, which binds the Scottish Parliament to act in a manner compatible with EU law, and he therefore believed that the Scottish Parliament’s consent would be required. He could envisage certain political advantages being drawn from not giving consent.

We note that the European Communities Act is also entrenched in the devolution settlements of Wales and Northern Ireland. Though we have taken no evidence on this specific point, we have no reason to believe that the requirement for legislative consent for its repeal would not apply to all the devolved nations.

As it turns out, this warning was spot on, because earlier today Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC that the Scottish Parliament could try to block the UK’s exit from the EU. As a reminder, unlike England where the vote went 52% to 48% in Brexit’s favor, in Scotland the picture was vastly different with 62% backing Remain and 38% wanting to go. And as predicted, the Scottish National Party leader, who went through her own UK independence referendum  two years ago and is now considering yet another referendum, said that “of course” she would ask MSPs to refuse to give their “legislative consent”.

In other words, Scotland’s leader is threatening to break down the very concept of a “Great Britain”, which includes England, Wales and Scotland, and pledge allegiance to the EU, while turning her back on more than half of the English population.

In an interview with the BBC‘s Sunday Politics Scotland program Sturgeon was asked what the Scottish Parliament would do now. Ms Sturgeon, whose party has 63 of the 129 Holyrood seats, 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.” When Sturgeon was asked by presenter Gordon Brewer whether she would consider asking the 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.”

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Still, as we also cautioned yesterday, the veto threat may be merely Scotland clutching at straws. Scottish Secretary and Conservative MP David Mundell, who also spoke to the Sunday Politics Scotland program, said: “We have to respect the result on Thursday, even if we don’t like it – it was a UK wide vote – it was a vote by people across the UK.”  Asked about the possibility of Scotland stopping Brexit, he said: “What we need to see is the legal mechanism that we go through to get to a situation of the UK leaving” and then said clearly that “I personally don’t believe the Scottish Parliament is in position to block Brexit, but I haven’t seen the legal documentation that you refer to in your interview with Nicola [Sturgeon].”

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It is unclear what the final legal determination will be on this subject, but if someone Scotland does succeed in scuttling a historic referendum decision by the majority of the UK population, we urge Edinburgh to build a very big and vary tall wall on its southern border (ideally without waiting for Mexico, or the UK, to pay for it).

Meanwhile, as all this takes place, the UK ruling class is in a state of crisis, with both PM Cameron and Chancellor Osborne having disappeared, while the opposition Labour party is undergoing a real time coup attempt, in which as we reported yesterday, party leader Jeremy Corbin has been firing random MPs from the shadow cabinet, in an attempt to foil an ouster. For those eager to follow the drama live, the Telegraph has a good live blog at the following link: “EU referendum Labour crisis: Hilary Benn says Jeremy Corbyn ‘is not a leader’, after he is sacked over post-Brexit coup plot, as six shadow cabinet members quit and more expected to follow

For those still confused, the following tweet by the Telegraph’s Tim Stanley summarizes everything that has transpired in the past few days best:

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