Scotland ignored: Theresa May rejects Brexit compromise in letter formally triggering EU exit

Compromise rejected: Tories plan to remove Scotland from the Single Market and the EU

THE FORMAL LETTER TO BEGIN a UK exit from the European Union has failed to propose a compromise agreement for Scotland, as set out by the Scottish Government and Parliament. 

Today (Wednesday 29 March) marks the delivery of Theresa May’s message to the president of the European Council Donald Tusk setting out her key negotiation issues ahead of a two-year process of divorce talks. 

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon had set including a proposed compromise in the letter as a key challenge to the Tory Government last December. 

“We want the UK Government to make clear when it triggers Article 50 that it intends to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union. If it will not do so, we want the UK Government to seek as part of its negotiation a differentiated solution for Scotland as set out here,” she said. 

“Triggering Article 50 without anything approaching agreement from the Scottish or Welsh governments puts Theresa May in breach of one of her first Brexit promises.” Ross Greer MSP

However, in the subsequent three months the Tories refused to meet to seriously discuss the details of the proposal - which included remaining in the single market, further devolution, and the powers to make trade deals. The prospect of the UK remaining in the Single Market was dismissed unilaterally by the Tories just days before governments from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were due to meet Tory ministers.

The Scottish Government pointed out that ‘differentiated’ deals had been raised for Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, the car and financial services industry - and that similar efforts should be made on behalf of Scotland, which voted strongly to remain in the EU. 

But the letter ignored these proposals - and only made one broad reference to Scotland, and only in reference to ‘The process in the United Kingdom’. 

“The letter signed by the Prime Minister will have a seismic impact on Scotland’s economy, risking thousands of jobs and livelihoods.” Kezia Dugdale

“When it comes to the return of powers back to the United Kingdom, we will consult fully on which powers should reside in Westminster and which should be devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland,” May wrote. 

Tory intransigence has been widely condemned by political opponents. 

Scottish Green spokesperson Ross Greer MSP said: “Triggering Article 50 without anything approaching agreement from the Scottish or Welsh governments puts Theresa May in breach of one of her first Brexit promises. It shows that this is clearly no ‘family of nations’ and that the UK is now almost certainly over.”

SNP leader at Westminster Angus Robertson MP challenged May on the lack of a UK-wide agreement: “The UK government does not seem to understand that the UK is a multi-national state with four nations and all of the rhetoric from the government benches does not paper over the gaping chasm that there is no unity in this so-called United Kingdom on this issue.”

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, while still opposed to independence, added: “This is a deeply divisive moment in our country’s history. The letter signed by the Prime Minister will have a seismic impact on Scotland’s economy, risking thousands of jobs and livelihoods.”

The Scottish Parliament has voted for the right to hold another independence referendum in 2018-19, but the Tory leadership in Westminster have so far rebuffed calls for talks on the issue. 

Picture courtesy of Number 10

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