terça-feira, 20 de dezembro de 2016

Sturgeon presses May on further devolution

Sturgeon presses May on further devolution
First minister proposals include further transfer of power to stay in EU single market

YESTERDAY by: Mure Dickie in Edinburgh

With her call for sweeping devolution of powers to allow Scotland to stay in the EU single market, Nicola Sturgeon has sent Theresa May a clear message: we have a plan, your move now.
The Scottish first minister’s proposals for how to deal with a “hard” Brexit that takes the UK out of the single market are messy, complicated and probably politically impossible. But they are also the most detailed and closely argued plan for a post-EU future to be offered by any UK political leader since June’s referendum.

While analysts say the obstacles to Scotland staying in the EU single market if the UK leaves appear overwhelming, they also warn of the consequences of dismissing Ms Sturgeon’s proposals too lightly. “They are risking breaking up the union if they don’t respond to this,” said Michael Keating of Aberdeen university.

Prof Keating acknowledged it was highly unlikely that the UK government would be willing to devolve powers on a wide range of key policies from immigration to financial services regulation.

As we are now seeing on an almost daily basis, everything about Brexit will be difficult, challenging and unprecedented
Nicola Sturgeon

But failure in Westminster to recognise Scotland’s dissatisfaction with Brexit and its support for remaining in the single market could alienate voters and be disastrous for the future of the UK, he said.

One effect of Scotland’s Brexit proposals might be to strengthen the hand of those in Mrs May’s government arguing for the UK to try to stay in the single market, which Ms Sturgeon says is her preferred option short of abandoning Brexit altogether.

The Scottish government’s 50-page policy paper, concludes that Westminster is in “an apparent drive for a hard Brexit” but argues that even in that case it would be possible for Scotland to retain full access to the EU’s single market and free movement for EU citizens.

This would require the UK, if it left the single market, to sponsor Scottish membership of the European Free Trade Association and make arrangements for it to stay in the European Economic Area, giving Scotland a status similar to that of Norway.

The EU has always shown itself to be adaptable to political realities
It would also require a breadth of new powers for the Scottish government that would fundamentally change the way the UK works.

On Monday, Mrs May said she would “look seriously” at the proposals. But her chancellor, Philip Hammond, has already emphatically rejected special treatment for Scotland on the single market or immigration, on practical and philosophical grounds.

A central concern is likely to be how trade in goods and services within the UK would function if Scotland were still bound by EU rules.

A special deal for Scotland would also add greatly to the complexity of the UK’s looming Brexit negotiations with the other 27 EU members states, all of whom would have to agree.

Ms Sturgeon acknowledged the technical, legal and political challenges but said the UK’s exit from the EU demanded flexibility and compromise.

“As we are now seeing on an almost daily basis, everything about Brexit will be difficult, challenging and unprecedented,” she said.

Ms Sturgeon said she wanted the UK government to either make it clear it wants to remain in the EU single market and customs union or to endorse the Scottish proposals by the time it triggers the Brexit process early next year.

But she would not say whether she would push for a second Scottish independence referendum if Mrs May rejected both options and would not promise that there would be no second referendum even if the UK did agree.

Such reticence reflects Ms Sturgeon’s desire to keep her options open — opinion polls show a majority of voters in Scotland still oppose independence. But she may be forced to make a decision in the next few months to retain any chance of Scotland leaving the UK before Brexit takes effect.

Kirsty Hughes, a senior fellow at Friends of Europe, said Mrs May might either rule out Ms Sturgeon’s proposals or agree to pursue only elements of them, leaving the Scottish first minister back with her independence dilemma.

“While the ball is now in Theresa May’s court, it is likely to be back in Ms Sturgeon’s very soon,” she said.

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