No triggering of Brexit until there's 'UK approach': May

Mrs May (far left) greeting Scottish First Minister Sturgeon in Edinburgh, Scotland, in her first foray out of London since becoming the British Prime Minister. Ms Sturgeon said if Scots wanted another independence vote, the British government would
Mrs May (far left) greeting Scottish First Minister Sturgeon in Edinburgh, Scotland, in her first foray out of London since becoming the British Prime Minister. Ms Sturgeon said if Scots wanted another independence vote, the British government would be wrong to block it.PHOTO: REUTERS

British PM meets Scotland's Sturgeon and says she's willing to listen to options

LONDON • Mrs Theresa May visited Edinburgh yesterday, her first foray outside of London since becoming the British Prime Minister, and she is there to deliver in person a pledge to govern in the interests of all Scots and dampen their call for independence following the Brexit vote.

Two days into the job, Mrs May is seeking to make good on a commitment made in her inaugural speech to preserve the 309-year-old union that binds Scotland to England and Wales.

Speaking after a meeting with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, she said the government would not trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would formally start divorce talks with the European Union, until a "UK approach" had been agreed.

Mrs May said she wanted to get the best deal for the whole country.

"I'm willing to listen to options and I've been very clear with the First Minister today that I want the Scottish government to be fully engaged in our discussions," Mrs May said. "I have already said that I won't be triggering Article 50 until I think that we have a UK approach and objectives for negotiations - I think it is important that we establish that before we trigger Article 50."

Voters in Scotland backed Britain staying in the EU in the June 23 referendum. Ms Sturgeon has said Scots must not be dragged out of the EU against their will and she will explore all options for preventing that from happening, including a referendum on independence from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Ms Sturgeon said yesterday that if Scots wanted another independence vote, the British government would be wrong to block it.

"I think it would be inconceivable for any prime minister to seek to stand in the way of a referendum if that's what the Scottish parliament voted for," Ms Sturgeon told journalists after meeting Mrs May. Scots rejected independence by 55-45 per cent in the 2014 referendum.

But since then, Ms Sturgeon's Scottish National Party (SNP) has gone from strength to strength, winning 56 of Scotland's 59 seats in the British Parliament in the 2015 elections. Mrs May's Conservative Party, hugely unpopular in Scotland for decades, holds only one of those 59 seats, although it has recently improved its standing, coming second to the SNP in the Scottish parliamentary elections in May.

Mrs May, who took office on Wednesday after Mr David Cameron stepped down as premier, has also told Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness that she would ensure they are involved in the Brexit negotiations.

Like Scotland, Northern Ireland voted "Remain" in the EU referendum. But votes in England and Wales meant the nationwide tally ended up 52 per cent to 48 per cent in favour of "Leave".

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2016, with the headline 'No triggering of Brexit until there's 'UK approach': May'. Print Edition | Subscribe