Tuesday

21st Mar 2023

British unity shaken by talk of 'hard Brexit'

Leaders of both Scotland and Northern Ireland have suggested they would seek a special deal with the EU, as they fear that the UK's tough negotiating stance on quitting the bloc could hurt their interests.

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said it is "highly likely" that Scotland will break away from the UK in the near future.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"I have never doubted that Scotland will one day become an independent country and I believe it today more strongly than I ever have before," she told her pro-independence Scottish National Party on Sunday (17 October).

The ruling SNP will present a bill for a referendum on independence this week to the Scottish parliament, that would be pursued if all other options fail.

Sturgeon said she would explore all possibilities to prevent Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU on the 23 June referendum, being pulled out of the EU.

"We will propose new powers to help keep Scotland in the single market even if the UK leaves," Sturgeon said.

"I don't believe there is a mandate to take the UK out of the single market and I don't believe there is a majority in parliament."

She said her first approach would be finding a good trade deal for the whole of UK and avoid hard Brexit.

"But if the Tory government rejects these efforts, if it insists on taking Scotland down a path that hurts our economy, costs jobs, lowers our living standards and damages our reputation as an open, welcoming, diverse country, then be in no doubt ... Scotland must have the ability to choose a better future, and I will make sure that Scotland gets that chance," she told party members in Glasgow.

She did not mince words to describe the UK's foreign secretary and secretary of trade.

"Let me be crystal clear about this, Scotland cannot trust the likes of Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to represent us" she said.

'Special case'

Northern Irish leaders have also been alarmed by UK prime minister Theresa May's promise to prioritise control over migration over retaining access to the EU's single market.

Deputy first minister Martin McGuinness told the Guardian newspaper that Northern Ireland should push the EU to grant it associate or even membership status to avoid the “devastating” consequences of Brexit.

Northern Ireland voted in favour of staying in the bloc.

The Sinn Fein member's main concerns are access to the single market, trade, borders with Ireland and maintaining peace.

He said leaders in Dublin and Belfast need to work together to make the case for "special rules" for Northern Ireland. He said a common position could be formulated in the next weeks.

“Theresa May says ‘Brexit means Brexit’, but so far as we are concerned Brexit means disaster for the people of Ireland," said McGuinness.

There is concern that Brexit could destabilise the 1998 peace agreement in the province with the possible reintroduction of immigration and customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“Whenever the government promise there will be no return to the borders of the past, they don’t make it clear there will be no borders. The borders of the past conjures up the idea of British soldiers, checkpoints, queues of cars a mile long," McGuinness argued.

"May says she is negotiating on behalf of the United Kingdom, but there is absolutely nothing united about a so-called United Kingdom. We don’t agree. We see our future in Europe. Scotland sees its future in Europe."

Scotland rattles sabre on independence

The Scottish first minister said that a bill for a referendum would be published next week and attacked the British prime minister over her EU exit positions.

British MPs get chance to shape Brexit strategy

British prime minister Theresa May continued to talk tough on Brexit in a parliament debate on Wednesday, but left room for MPs to prevent a future trade war with the EU.

May: Brexit is 'quiet revolution'

The British prime minister concluded the Tory party conference in the UK by pledging to regain control of immigration and by taking a swipe at pro-EU elites.

Brexit Briefing

Sterling crisis reflects May’s dilemma

Continued uncertainty and confusion over what Brexit might mean sees the pound fall to its lowest levels in 30 years, leaving winter-escaping holidays increasingly out of reach of many Britons.

Opinion

Why British MPs must play Brexit role

Using legal technicalities to frustrate MPs from holding the government to account on Brexit is a tactical misjudgement.

Opinion

Turkey's election — the Erdoğan vs Kılıçdaroğlu showdown

Turkey goes to the polls in May for both a new parliament and new president, after incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided against a post-earthquake postponement. The parliamentary outcome is easy to predict — the presidential one less so.

Opinion

When geopolitics trump human rights, we are all losers

The EU must back the UN's Human Rights 75 initiative at the end of the year to rekindle the spirit of the original declaration made in 1948 — and also demand a similar recommitment from all its 27 members.

Latest News

  1. Three French MEPs to stay on election-observation blacklist
  2. Turkey's election — the Erdoğan vs Kılıçdaroğlu showdown
  3. When geopolitics trump human rights, we are all losers
  4. EU starts talks on 11th round of Russia sanctions
  5. EU fears Tunisia turmoil will spark migrant boat departures
  6. 'Symbolic' Putin indictment gets some EU backing
  7. 'Final warning' to act on climate change, warns IPCC
  8. 'No one is unemployable': the French social experiment

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality
  5. Promote UkraineInvitation to the National Demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine on 25.02.2023
  6. Azerbaijan Embassy9th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and 1st Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us