Few would have been surprised by Nicola Sturgeon confirming this morning that she is keen on holding a second referendum on Scottish independence. “She would be a big feartie if she didn’t call for a second referendum, but she will know it would come at a huge personal risk”, writes Matthew Maxwell Scott. Nonetheless, her speech was timed to be highly awkward for the Government, and it seems to have worked. Coming on the eve “for all we know” of Article 50 being triggered, the First Minister tore into the idea of a “hard Brexit” under Theresa May. Ministers had hoped to guide the Article 50 bill swiftly through the Commons, which looks likely, and to have enough time to get it through the Lords too in order to be able to trigger it as early as tomorrow. ( Follow our liveblog of today’s debates here).
But Ms Sturgeon’s highlighting of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit seems to have left the Government with cold feet, as sources now suggest Article 50 won’t be triggered until the end of March, with the 27th looking like a good bet. The Prime Minister’s spokesman has just made a point of emphasising the word “end” in telling journalists that: “We have been clear that the prime minister will trigger Article 50 by the end of March…I have said ‘end’ many times but it would seem I didn’t put it in capital letters quite strongly enough.” Downing Street may well be tempted to hold off so it can sidestep events like the elections in the Netherlands on Wednesday this week, and another EU summit in Rome. But Brexiteers will be all the keener to see that the deadline does not slip.
As politicians prepare to reheat the #indyref arguments of 2014, Tom Harris argues that the SNP leader’s focus was on softening Brexit, rather than seeking independence. “She wanted compromise, she wanted the UK government to do what UK governments traditionally do when dealing with the SNP: whatever the SNP tells it to do,” he writes. “And if that had happened, if Scotland was given a bespoke deal whereby it was allowed to remain in the EU single market while the rest of the country departed, then there would be no need for a referendum, no need to win it and no need for Scottish independence.”
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