REPORT
By Gökhan Kurtaran
London letter, March 20

- Leaving one union, losing another?

When former U.K. Prime Minister promised to hold a referendum on whether the United Kingdom wants to remain as a part of the European Union or not, he probably never envisioned that the EU referendum would not just put a bitter end to his career but also threaten the future of the ‘United’ Kingdom.

The EU referendum saw a result in which nearly 51.8 percent of the people voted to leave the union. Scotland voted in favor of the U.K. staying in the EU by 62 percent to 38 percent. This showed Scotland’s clear will to remain a part of the EU and secure access to European markets despite growing concerns about immigration in the rest of the U.K.

The unemployment data in the U.K. throws up another anomaly in that the U.K. is seeing the lowest unemployment level since 1975, revealing the plentiful jobs and showing that the economy is still growing better than projections despite rising Brexit uncertainties. The leave campaign, however, brought up Turkey’s possibility of joining the EU as part of a scaremongering campaign, with the tabloid newspaper, the Daily Mail running headlines that “12 million Turks are coming to the U.K.' The daily later admitted that the story was inaccurate.

The U.K. has made its decision despite the narrow margin between those who voted to remain and those who voted to leave.  The PM will invoke Article 50 on March 29 to officially start the process of leaving the union, and start the negotiations.

Last week the Queen gave Royal Assent to the Brexit bill, clearing the way for May to start talks to leave the European Union. Subsequently, the Scottish Government decided to hold a second referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, the country's First Minister announced, blaming the U.K. government's lack of compromise over Brexit. Nicola Sturgeon said the U.K. government had "not moved even an inch in pursuit of compromise and agreement" with the Scottish government over Brexit and that even a good deal would be "significantly inferior" to the status quo.

May responded to Sturgeon in an interview with BBC and said  ‘now is not the time’ for a second referendum on Scottish independence adding that the U.K. should be focused on getting the right deal in negotiations with the EU.

Sturgeon made another move in her chess game against May last weekend and said an independent Scotland would seek full membership of the European Union and dismissed suggestions the country would have to join the back of the queue.

Moreover, speaking to Financial Times, the former first minister Alex Salmond said Scottish Nationalists are prepared to change their blueprint for independence and abandon previous proposals for a currency union with the rest of the U.K.

The former prime minister Gordon Brown was typically back on the stage and proposed “a third way” to defy Sturgeon’s second independence referendum demand by asking for “further devolution to the Scottish parliament” to prevent any break away from the union.

The Scottish people voted to remain a part of the U.K. in the referendum in 2014 by a close 55.3 percent and said no to independence. Former Scottish PM Alex Salmond said there would not be “another referendum in a lifetime.”

However right after the surprise result of the EU referendum, once again Scottish independence is back on the table bringing significant uncertainty to Brexit negotiations.

In a YouGov poll last week, 46 percent of Scots said the U.K. government should agree to a second referendum, while 42 percent disagreed. It is clear that May does not want to sit on the negotiation table with 27 members of the EU without firstly putting her house in order at home by finding an alternative to blocking a second Scottish independence referendum.

20 Mar,2017

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