terça-feira, 14 de março de 2017

The Guardian view on another Scottish vote: Theresa May’s homemade crisis / Nicola Sturgeon's referendum call prompts demands for Welsh and Northern Irish independence votes / Parliament passes Brexit bill and opens way to triggering article 50

Speaking at a press conference in Bute House in Edinburgh on Monday, the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, says she is going to ask the Scottish parliament for its approval to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence at the end of the Brexit process

The Guardian view on another Scottish vote: Theresa May’s homemade crisis
The disrespect shown for remain voters lies behind the breakdown in relations with Nicola Sturgeon

Monday 13 March 2017 20.00 GMT

Theresa May’s very first move as prime minister last July was to fly to Edinburgh to meet Scotland’s first minister. Her decision to get on the plane herself rather than invite Nicola Sturgeon to come to London was a timely gesture. It acknowledged the significance of the Scots’ 62-38 vote in favour of remain, and the complexity of reconciling that outcome with the leave majority in England and Wales that carried the UK.

Just over a week ago, the prime minister went north again, to Glasgow this time, for her party’s Scottish conference. Here she delivered a speech that was aimed entirely at the audience in front of her. It so diminished the prospects of a Brexit dividend, in the shape of more powers for Holyrood, that it was at once interpreted as a challenge to Ms Sturgeon to call a second referendum. Support has been growing since Mrs May set out her negotiating position in January, when she rejected continued membership of the single market. It now hovers around 50%.

On Monday Nicola Sturgeon stood in front of the same elegant Bute House fireplace where she had posed with Mrs May back in July and declared that the “brick wall of intransigence” over Brexit negotiations was forcing her to call a second independence vote. The field is prepared for a tense and unpredictable contest between the nationalisms of England and Scotland. Theresa May is leading the UK out of Europe. She may have precipitated Scotland’s departure from the UK.

These are not the circumstances in which the SNP anticipated embarking on a second independence campaign. There is not the sustained poll support for the idea nor the enthusiasm for a second referendum that only a year ago were taken as prerequisites. Brexit has changed everything. Mrs May’s apparent readiness to tolerate leaving without a deal, her rejection of any attempt either to fight in the negotiations for access to the single market for the UK, or to hold out the hope of a deal that would allow Scotland its own relationship with the rest of Europe, have both played straight to the independence cause. Ms Sturgeon says she was misled by the prime minister over the single market hours before Mrs May announced in her definitive Lancaster House speech in January that the UK would not try to remain in it. Scotland’s needs have been brutally ignored, its special identity – of which the SNP is the unquestioned guardian – disregarded. The choice facing voters in an independence referendum can be framed as one between the certain economic catastrophe of crashing out of the EU and the uncertain consequences of leaving the UK.

All of this has been well gamed in the past nine months by Ms Sturgeon. With an enfeebled Labour party, whose leader, Jeremy Corbyn, could not even decide at the weekend whether or not to support a second independence vote, it was easy for Ms Sturgeon to warn that the Tories could be in power at Westminster for another 10, maybe even 15, years. The union’s defenders are divided and Labour will not lightly repeat the mistake of sharing a platform with the Tories as it did in 2014, a decision that it blames for its electoral catastrophes. No party that exists to secure Scottish independence could ignore such a favourable coincidence of circumstances. Work to make good the weaknesses exposed in the last campaign is well under way; a commission is examining the economic consequences of independence. Expectations are already being managed down.

The prime minister is not defenceless. Parliament has to approve the decision to hold a referendum. Westminster can dictate the timing. The Tories will argue that there cannot be a Scottish independence vote while the terms of Brexit are uncertain. The SNP assertion that the vote must take place at the end of 2018 or early 2019, before a deal is agreed, in order to be able to remain a member of the EU has been challenged in Brussels. But there is little else in the tool kit. A vote before 2020 now looks almost certain.

This is an unnecessary crisis, made in Downing Street with some of the same elements of control freakery and intransigence that have shaken relations post-budget between Mrs May and her chancellor. They are part of an increasingly familiar pattern of behaviour from the prime minister. Nicola Sturgeon’s strongest argument may not be that material circumstances have changed since 2014 because an English majority voted to leave the EU, but the disregard that the prime minister has shown for all those who voted to remain.

Nicola Sturgeon's referendum call prompts demands for Welsh and Northern Irish independence votes

Tom Batchelor @_tombatchelor an hour ago

Independence movements in Wales and Northern Ireland are seeking to capitalise on Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second referendum in Scotland by urging the British Government to consider their own demands for separating from the UK.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood claimed a vote on Scottish independence would “lead to the end of the UK as a state” and said "in that situation Wales would need to decide its own future".

Her remarks come as Sinn Fein demanded an Irish border poll that could lead to the reunification of Ireland.

Earlier, Ms Sturgeon announced plans to hold a second independence referendum within two years.

Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon announces second referendum plans
The First Minister said she hoped a vote would take place as early as autumn 2018 - just four years after Scots voted by 55 per cent to 45 per cent to remain in the United Kingdom.

Commenting on that speech, Ms Wood called for a “national debate to explore all of the options, including that of independent Wales”.

The Plaid Cymru leader continued: “If the UK Government’s Brexit negotiation also leads to the Welsh national interest being overlooked, support will grow for greater control of our own affairs in Wales.

"We expect this situation to continue to evolve over the coming years, and Plaid Cymru will continue to articulate the Welsh national interest at all times.

“Now is a good time for people in Wales to think about what is in our own national interests and how we can best unlock our country’s potential in this new constitutional scenario.”

In Belfast, Sinn Fein’s leader Michelle O’Neill said a vote should be offered on whether Northern Ireland should remain a part of the UK.

She argued that a border poll should be held as soon as possible, adding that Brexit had "increased the urgency" for a united Ireland.

Ms O’Neill said: "They are continuing to refuse to listen to the majority views. Brexit would be a disaster for the economy and the people of Ireland.

"To us in Sinn Fein that increases the urgency for the need of a referendum on Irish unity and that needs to happen as soon as possible."

But Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said calls for an Irish border poll were "premature" and an issue for the longer term.

Renewed calls for Northern Ireland and Wales to separate from the UK come after Ms Sturgeon's plea for another go at securing independence from London.

Until recently, polls showed that support for breaking up the union had barely moved from the 45 per cent who backed it in the 2014 referendum.

But polls in the last month have shown support for independence rising.

Parliament passes Brexit bill and opens way to triggering article 50
Peers accept MPs’ decision to reject amendments aimed at guaranteeing rights of EU citizens and meaningful vote on final Brexit bill

Monday 13 March 2017 22.12 GMT First published on Monday 13 March 2017 18.56 GMT

Theresa May’s Brexit bill has cleared all its hurdles in the Houses of Parliament, opening the way for the prime minister to trigger article 50 by the end of March.

Peers accepted the supremacy of the House of Commons late on Monday night after MPs overturned amendments aimed at guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK and giving parliament a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal. The decision came after a short period of so-called “ping pong” when the legislation bounced between the two houses of parliament as a result of disagreement over the issues.

The outcome means the government has achieved its ambition of passing a “straightforward” two-line bill that is confined simply to the question of whether ministers can trigger article 50 and start the formal Brexit process.

It had been widely predicted in recent days that May would fire the starting gun on Tuesday, immediately after the vote, but sources quashed speculation of quick action and instead suggested she will wait until the final week of March.

MPs voted down the amendment on EU nationals’ rights by 335 to 287, a majority of 48, with peers later accepting the decision by 274 to 135. The second amendment on whether to hold a meaningful final vote on any deal after the conclusion of Brexit talks was voted down by 331 to 286, a majority of 45, in the Commons.

The Lords then accepted that decision by 274 to 118, with Labour leader Lady Smith telling the Guardian that continuing to oppose the government would be playing politics because MPs would not be persuaded to change their minds. “If I thought there was a foot in the door or a glimmer of hope that we could change this bill, I would fight it tooth and nail, but it doesn’t seem to be the case,” she said.

But the decision led to tensions between Labour and the Lib Dems, whose leader, Tim Farron, hit out at the main opposition. “Labour had the chance to block Theresa May’s hard Brexit, but chose to sit on their hands. Tonight there will be families fearful that they are going to be torn apart and feeling they are no longer welcome in Britain. Shame on the government for using people as chips in a casino, and shame on Labour for letting them,” he said.

The amendments would have required the government to bring forward proposals about how they would protect EU citizens within three months of triggering article 50, and said that a parliamentary vote on the final Brexit deal should be on the face of the legislation.

The Brexit secretary, David Davis, told colleagues that MPs and peers had made their arguments with “passion, sincerity and conviction”. But, using emollient language that served to persuade peers not to cause any more trouble for the government, he said he wanted this legislation to remain “straightforward”, simply allowing the government to embark on the formal Brexit process.

Davis said he would take personal “moral responsibility” for guaranteeing the future rights of EU citizens in the UK as well as those of Britons living on the continent.

On the second amendment, Davis said guaranteeing a meaningful vote could hamper the government during its negotiations. He questioned the motives of those arguing for it, claiming that they wanted to reverse the referendum result.

A number of Tory MPs argued that the government was right to aim to guarantee reciprocity for British citizens abroad. However, Davis was opposed by Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP – with some passionate speeches from critics – and faced a small rebellion on his own backbenches over the meaningful vote on the eventual Brexit deal.

Davis reassured MPs that they would have a say on various issues through government bills that would be published after the great repeal bill including on immigration and Britain’s customs deal. It came as reports suggested that a leaked document had outlined how those bills would be among seven pieces of legislation to prepare for life outside the EU.

After peers voted to allow the passage of the bill unamended, Davis said the decision had placed Britain “on the threshold of the most important negotiation for our country in a generation”, saying that his government was ready to trigger article 50 and forge new trade links.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, described the decision by MPs to overturn the votes as “deeply disappointing”. He said: “We will continue to demand that the stress they, and British citizens living in the EU, are being put under is ended, and they are given the right to remain.

“Article 50 is being triggered because of the result of the EU referendum. But it is only the start of the process. Labour, at every stage, will challenge the government’s plans for a bargain-basement Brexit with Labour’s alternative of a Brexit that puts jobs, living standards and rights first.”

The founder of The3million, the grassroots organisation lobbying for the rights of EU citizens, said he felt “utter desperation” that they are now destined to become bargaining chips.

Nicolas Hatton said: “The hearts of 3 million EU citizens living in the UK will have sunk today when they heard that MPs had voted down the amendment to article 50 giving them guarantees. This was the last chance, and I struggle to find words to express my utter desperation that EU citizens will now be used by the government as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations.”

There was also angry reaction from British people living on the continent. Dave Spokes for Expat Citizen Rights in EU, one of the biggest support groups, with more than 7,600 members in 27 EU countries, said: “It is worrying that our government chooses to ignore the concerns of its own citizens and the evidence put to its select committees that citizens’ rights should be confirmed immediately.
“The government’s own white paper said it had engaged with citizens’ groups in Europe, but we have yet to find one group that has been approached by the Department for Exiting the EU. We do wonder what the outcome might have been had they actually done so.”

A coalition of 11 grassroots groups campaigning for British nationals in the EU said it also felt for the millions of Europeans in the UK. “We share their suffering, and know exactly how stressful and unpleasant it is to live with this degree of uncertainty for ourselves and our families,” said spokeswoman Jane Golding, who lives in Germany. “We do not believe people should be used as a bargaining chips.”

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