Theresa May now has the power to start the Brexit process by triggering Article 50, as she confirmed this afternoon in hailing the “defining moment” that awaits Britain. But it won’t come just yet, as she is dealing with Nicola Sturgeon’s eleventh-hour independence threat first. The Prime Minister chided her Scottish counterpart in the Commons for trying to “play politics”. “Both women have embarked on the gamble of their lives – and only one will win,” notes Cathy Newman.
It looks like Ms Sturgeon’s pitch is starting to come unstuck. After warning voters of a Tory “hard Brexit” yesterday, the First Minister was unable to clarify if an independent Scotland would remain part of the European Union. The EU’s insistence that Scotland would have to reapply for membership – in a process that will inevitably be torpedoed by Spain – may have something to do with it. This leaves Ms Sturgeon able to promise at most that it would remain part of the single market. Her position may of course change if the second referendum happens when the terms of the Brexit deal are clear.
Westminster will grant Scotland another vote, Fraser Nelson suggests, but it will be on Mrs May’s terms. “To deny a vote…is not the British way,” he writes. “But Mrs May can suggest a later time, when the trajectory of Brexit is clearer.” Some Brexiteers may be nervous about Mrs May suggesting that Article 50 will be triggered nearer the end of March, but Tom Harris argues that it is a sign of her being canny. “As prime minister she has a duty of care towards the Union, and like it or not, yesterday’s statement by Sturgeon represents a clear and present, if tiresomely ever-present, threat to that Union,” he writes. “It is May who is in control of events, whether Brexit or another…independence referendum.”
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