REPORT
By Gökhan Kurtaran
London letter, April 3

 -First Brexit, then Scotland and N. Ireland and now Gibraltar

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May last week officially triggered Lisbon Treaty’s Article 50, which was likely formulated so any EU member state would never use it. Almost as soon as the U.K.’s two-year timeframe began to start, the Prime Minister of Scotland and leader of Scottish National Party (SNP) Nicola Sturgeon, formally demanded a second vote on Scottish independence, after writing to Theresa May to ask for a referendum to be held under Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998.

However, May once more rejected the demand and said that “now is not the time.” It seems that Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn shares the same sentiment with May on a second independence referendum for Scotland. However, Brexit demands and criticism of another independence referendum from the seat of the Scottish parliament at Holyrood to Number 10 Downing Street and are likely to endure.

May will undoubtedly have to put her house in order before sitting at the negotiation table with 27 members of the European Union, as dissident U.K. members, in fear of a bad Brexit outcome, are eager to have their voices heard.

“A good deal for the U.K. is clearly in Scotland's interests whatever constitutional future we choose,” Sturgeon said in her letter to May, adding, “However, whatever outcome is secured, it seems inevitable that it will remove the U.K., not just from the EU, but also from the single market. As you are aware, that is not an outcome that the people of Scotland voted for.”

The City of London’s financial institutions are also concerned about losing access to European markets and are uneasy about the increased competition from other big financial centers such as Frankfurt, Paris, Luxembourg and Dublin.

On the other hand, the Brexit Secretary David Davis said that should the people of Northern Ireland vote to leave the U.K., they would "be in a position of becoming part of an existing EU member state, rather than seeking to join the EU as a new independent state.”

These statements could well mark a new beginning for Northern Ireland’s future. Davis added that, "If a majority of the people of Northern Ireland were ever to vote to become part of a united Ireland, the U.K. government would honor its commitment under the Belfast Agreement to enable that to happen.”

In the future, as a result of the Brexit process, we might see a different United Kingdom map than it is today.

Last weekend, a new issue came up on the agenda with comments from some senior Euroepan diplomats who said that the EU would not back down on its support for Spain’s demands when it comes to the U.K.-governed Rock of Gibraltar in Brexit negotiations. This means that the British overseas territory could be included in a trade deal between London and Brussels but only with Spain’s agreement. However, this support restarted a new ‘Falklands like’ argument in London.

Michael Howard, the former Conservative leader waded into the row by claiming that May would be prepared to go to war to protect the territory as Margaret Thatcher once did for the Falklands.

Alfonso Dastis, Spain's foreign minister said in response that “the Spanish government is a little surprised by the tone of comments coming out of Britain, a country known for its composure.”

U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also made it clear that Gilbatrar could not be part of the Brexit negotiations; "I think the position of the government is very, very clear. Which is that the sovereignty of Gibraltar is unchanged and it's not going to change, and cannot conceivably change without the express support and consent of the people of Gibraltar and the United Kingdom."

It is apparent that Brexit talks will be complex and multidimensional with many parties aiming to act on their own behalf to get the best deal they can. Considering the complexity of the talks, it seems unlikely that the exit process will be completed in an efficient manner that will suit all within the two-year timeframe.  In all probability, news on a Scottish referendum, the future of Northern Ireland, and political developments in Gibraltar and the overall outlook of the U.K. economy will be abundant.

03 Apr,2017

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