The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has claimed that she has a veto on when Britain leaves the European Union. The claim will fuel a growing clash between Prime Minister Theresa May and her cabinet over the timetable for Britain’s exit.
Mrs May flew to Edinburgh on Friday to meet with Mrs Sturgeon to discuss Britain’s exit from the EU, telling reporters that she does not want to invoke Article 50, the mechanism for taking Britain out of the EU, until there is an agreed “UK approach” supported by Scotland.
Speaking in Edinburgh, Mrs May said: “I have already said that I won’t be triggering Article 50 until I think that we have a U.K. approach and objectives for negotiations. I think it is important that we establish that before we trigger Article 50.”
But Mrs Sturgeon has vowed to explore every possible option for keeping Scotland within the EU, prompting fears that she may use Mrs May’s promise to effectively veto Britain’s exit.
Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr this morning whether she had a “veto in her back pocket” she replied: “I think we are in a very strong position. That is a position that I am going to use as well as I can.”
Her comments will fuel a growing divide within the Cabinet over when Article 50 should be invoked.
Although Mrs May campaigned for Britain to remain within the EU – and suggested before taking the reins at Downing Street that she would not invoke Article 50 this year – two of her cabinet ministers tasked with leading Britain out of the EU have indicated that they would like to see a much speedier timetable.
David Davis, the new Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, wrote two days before his appointment that Britain’s exit must be triggered before the end of the year, following consultation with British interests including the Unions and the regional Parliaments. Once triggered, Britain is committed to leaving the EU following a two-year negotiation.
His colleague Liam Fox, Britain’s new secretary of state for international trade, has similarly said that Britain must leave the EU by January 1, 2019 or face more calls for contributions towards the EU’s budget.
But speaking to Sky News this morning, Mr Davis appeared to be backtracking. “We have a huge negotiation to do and we have to get all of it right,” he said. “We’ve got to get that done properly, so that makes it sort of beginning of next year, early-ish,” he said.
He added: “The person who’s in charge, to be clear about this, is actually Theresa May.
“You see this straight away because on Friday she broke the sequence of the reshuffle to go to see Nicola Sturgeon, to talk about Scotland’s perspective and what we can do to make it easier for Scotland.”