May offer leaders of devolved nations a 'direct line' on Brexit

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at 2016.10.24
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May offer leaders of devolved nations a 'direct line' on Brexit

Monday, October 24th, 2016 4:33am

Theresa May will on Monday offer the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the chance to formally feed into her Brexit strategy as the Prime Minister looks to engage the increasingly restive Scots and other regional leaders.

Ms May is convening a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee to offer Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont a “direct line” into David Davis, the Brexit secretary in a bid to make good on her promise to engage the devolved administrations in her EU exit plans.

The move comes as Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon dials up the pressure on Ms May to offer the Scots a “flexible” Brexit deal so they can, if they choose, retain access to the European single market.

The SNP, the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats are all concerned over Ms May’s insistence that immigration controls must be the priority in negotiating Brexit because this means the UK will have to quit membership of the single market, which allows all 28 member states to trade freely and tariff-free with each other.

This is because freedom of movement of people is one of the key rules of membership of the single market; fellow European leaders have made it very clear that the UK cannot limit immigration from the EU into the UK and remain a member of the free trade area.

Ms Sturgeon – writing in the Financial Times – insisted that Scotland must “be able to continue a close relationship with Europe” as she called on others who agreed with her to create “a cross-party coalition to avert a hard Brexit [whereby Britain quits the single market] for the UK as a whole”.

It comes after she told a Scottish National Party conference earlier this month that she would call a second referendum on Scottish independence if the UK government pulled the nation – which voted to remain in the EU – out of the single market as part of Brexit.

Downing Street is adamant that the Holyrood government has no mandate for a second referendum after Scots voted to remain part of the UK in a ballot in November 2014.

Ms May said it was “imperative” that devolved administrations played their part in making Brexit work, as she convened the first meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee in two years.

No 10 is proposing that it formally meets in November and then before Christmas in order to help the Prime Minister prepare for triggering the start of formal negotiations by the end of March.

Ms May has refused to be drawn on the sort of deal she is looking for, with the Government insisting on Sunday that how the UK leaves the EU will “not boil down to a binary choice”.

While clear that Britain must be able to control its borders, the Prime Minister is also hopeful she can secure access to the single market – but has yet to spell out how that might work. 

The scale of the challenge Ms May faces was laid bare at her first EU summit last week when her first speech to fellow leaders was relegated to the end of a six-hour dinner and met with silence – her audience adhering to their refusal to discuss Brexit until the UK formally triggers exit procedures.

Ms Sturgeon, Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness will be at the London meeting alongside Welsh leader Carwyn Jones.

Sky News (c) Sky News 2016: May offer leaders of devolved nations a ‘direct line’ on Brexit

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Published at Mon, 24 Oct 2016 01:52:38 +0000

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