One day before triggering article 50 of the EU Treaty to start negotiations to leave the bloc, what is really at stake not only for the EU but also for the UK is unity.
British PM Theresa May went to Scotland, just days after Nicola Sturgeon said she wants a second referendum on Scottish independence to be held within two years.
Theresa May replied that “now is not the time.”
Her message was loud and clear both to Scotland but also to Northern Ireland, the only land border with the EU, where a nationalist revival could mean real trouble.
When Theresa met Nicola
Theresa May has held her first meeting with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon since the UK prime minister blocked Scotland’s bid for a second independence referendum.
On Tuesday, Scotland’s devolved assembly is due to resume a debate on independence that is expected to give Sturgeon the authority to call a second vote.
May wants to try to stem demands in Scotland for a new independence referendum which could rip apart the world’s fifth-largest economy and encourage nationalists in Northern Ireland to follow suit.
“As Britain leaves the European Union and we forge a new role for ourselves in the world, the strength and stability of our union will become even more important,” May told staff from the Department for International Development in East Kilbride near Glasgow.
Ahead of the meeting, May’s spokesman said the prime minister hoped to highlight areas where she believes the two sides can find agreement and plot a course forward, without having to hold a new independence referendum.
What has Nicola Sturgeon said?
That May has all but ignored Scotland’s demands. These include requests such as maintaining preferential access to the EU’s lucrative single market.
This is something London has already ruled out.
“An unstoppable force”
Earlier on Monday, May described unity as “crucial” to the UK winning a good divorce deal from the EU. She is due to trigger the formal process of separation on Wednesday.
In a speech,May described the UK working together as “an unstoppable force”.
“I believe when we work together, there is not limit to what we can do. A more united nation means working actively to bring people and communities together by promoting policies which support integration and social cohesion.”
“In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, that means fully respecting and, indeed, strengthening the Devolution Settlements but never allowing our union to become looser and weaker, or our people to drift apart.”
May is battling to keep the UK together after last summer’s vote to leave the EU revealed deep divisions.
England and Wales voted for Brexit while Scotland and Northern Ireland supported staying with Brussels.
Hasn’t there already been a referendum in Scotland?
Yes, but not directly about EU membership.
Scotland voted by 55 to 45 percent against breaking away from the UK in a referendum in 2014.
While tension between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and several European governments is still high, there is less than a month to the crucial referendum which will define whether the Turkish president will widen his powers.
Ballot boxes for Turkish nationals in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, France and Denmark have been open since yesterday and people will be able to vote until the 9th of April.
Nearly three million Turkish immigrants live in Germany, and about half are able to vote in the referendum.
Mayor of London visits Brussels
In the Brexit mood, EU Parliament President Tajani has welcomed the mayor of London, where the Remain campaign was dominant. Sadiq Khan’s trip to Brussels comes almost one week after the deadly terror attack in the heart of the UK capital.