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May to meet leaders of UK regions denied say over Brexit

Monday, January 30, 2017 - 15:54

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Prime Minister Theresa May will hold talks with leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on Monday, less than a week after the UK's highest court ruled the three governments have no legal right to challenge Britain's exit from the European Union.

[LONDON] Prime Minister Theresa May will hold talks with leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on Monday, less than a week after the UK's highest court ruled the three governments have no legal right to challenge Britain's exit from the European Union.

Among those joining Mrs May at the meeting with regional government ministers will be Brexit Secretary David Davis and Trade Secretary Liam Fox, according to a statement released by Mrs May's office in London. The meeting will be held in the Welsh capital of Cardiff.

In its ruling on Jan 24, the Supreme Court decided that said triggering the process of leaving the EU will require the approval of the UK Parliament, but not the regional legislatures.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said promises by the UK government to consult lawmakers in Scotland are now "not worth the paper they are written on," raising the prospect of another referendum on breaking away from the UK.

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"We will not agree on everything but that doesn't mean we will shy away from the necessary conversation and I hope we will have further constructive discussions," Mrs May said in a statement ahead of the talks.

The Supreme Court judgment "made clear beyond doubt that relations with the EU are a matter for the UK government and the UK Parliament."

The prime minister said MPs "will be fully involved" in passing a bill to back Article 50, the formal trigger that sets Britain on course to leave the EU.

Mrs May claims a mandate for Brexit after the UK voted to leave and she wants to begin the formal process by the end of March. Yet north of the England border, support for staying in the bloc was overwhelming. Scotland's influence is now limited to the House of Commons, where the Scottish National Party's 54 lawmakers are seeking to challenge what they see as the "hard Brexit," with the UK outside the single market, proposed by Mrs May.

In Wales, where voters backed leaving the EU, three lawmakers from the Plaid Cymru party want to amend the Article 50 bill to make sure the Wales, Scotland and North Ireland administrations get a say in the final deal negotiated with the EU.

The meeting Monday also comes against a backdrop of political turmoil in Northern Ireland, where fresh elections are due to take place on March 2 following the collapse of the power-sharing assembly. 

While a bitter election campaign may harden divisions in the region over Brexit, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire insists there will be no effect on the timing of triggering Article 50.

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