May to get Brexit views across UK before triggering article 50

PM expected to visit the North shortly as Scotland begins independence motion debate

Theresa May has promised to listen to the views of citizens in every part of the United Kingdom before she triggers article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on March 29th, starting the formal process of leaving the European Union.

The prime minister was in Swansea on Monday, where she met Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones, and she is expected to visit Scotland and Northern Ireland in the coming days.

Scotland's external affairs secretary, Fiona Hyslop, complained on Monday that Ms May gave the Scottish government no prior warning of her intention to set a date for triggering article 50.

“The fact the UK government failed to properly and fully inform all of the devolved administrations on the plans for triggering article 50 speaks volumes – and totally exposes as empty rhetoric Westminster’s language about equal partnership,” Ms Hyslop said.


The Scottish parliament will on Tuesday begin debating a motion calling for a second referendum on independence to be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019. First minister Nicola Sturgeon insists that the vote must be held after the shape of a Brexit deal becomes known but before Britain has left the EU.

Ms May has said that "now is not the time" for a second independence referendum, a position backed by Labour. Scotland needs the approval of Westminster before it can hold a binding referendum. But Ms Sturgeon warned the prime minister against defying the will of the Scottish parliament.

"If MSPs pass this motion this week, then the prime minister's position of blocking a referendum and forcing through a hard Brexit without giving the people a choice will be democratically indefensible," she said.   At Westminster on Monday, veteran Conservative Eurosceptic Bill Cash said Ms May should refuse to pay anything to the EU when Britain leaves. EU officials have suggested that British liabilities for spending commitments, pensions and other costs could amount to €60 billion.

"Has anybody pointed out to them, or would you make sure that they do understand, that we have been net contributors for many decades to the tune of what is now running at around £9 billion or £10 billion a year, that our accumulated liabilities are offset by the extent to which we have made these massive contributions?" Sir Bill said to Britain's ambassador to the EU during a committee hearing.

Sir Bill said the government should also remind Germany that "for all its malfeasance during the second World War, and its unprovoked aggression", the 1953 London debt agreement remitted half its debt.

“If you compare that situation with what it is now, given Germany’s extremely dominant role in the European Union, that it might be worth tactfully – not one of my strongest points – reminding people that there is a realistic position here, which is that we really don’t owe anything to the European Union, whether it is legal or political,” he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times