The Cable

Brexiteers Urge Scotland Not to Leave UK, Citing Arguments Used Against Brexit

Brexit pot, meet Scottish kettle.

sc crop

The British pot is meeting the Scottish kettle. While London works to extricate itself from the European Union, Scotland is readying for yet another referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. And Scotland’s leaders are turning the Brexiteers’ own words against them to justify a new independence vote.

On Monday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for a new referendum on Scottish independence. “I believe that it would be wrong for Scotland to be taken down a path that it has no control over regardless of the consequences for our economy, for our society, for our place in the world, for our very sense of who we are as a country. That would be wrong, and therefore my judgement is that we should have that choice,” she said.

Theresa May’s government snapped back with a statement Monday. “The evidence clearly shows that a majority of people in Scotland do not want a second independence referendum,” the statement said. “Another referendum would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time.

You may have heard this song before, in reverse.

During the Brexit vote in July, 2016, Leave campaigners argued Britain was losing control over its economy and society with creeping authority from Brussels. Stay campaigners argued an exit from the EU would cause economic turmoil and sow divisions in Europe.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. The irony isn’t lost on the Twitterverse.

The speech infuriated May, who accused Sturgeon of playing “games” with politics. “The tunnel vision that the SNP has shown today is deeply regrettable,” May said, referring to Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party.

Hours after the speech, 10 Downing announced it wouldn’t invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty to begin the UK’s formal withdrawal process from the EU. Rumors swirled the parliament would green-light the process this week. When that plan was scrapped, it fueled speculation Sturgeon’s speech scared off May.

May was largely silent about Brexit during the heated campaign last June. She was formally against Brexit, but experts and supporters say her heart wasn’t in it. She’s vowed to see the Brexit process through since taking the helm of 10 Downing.

Scotland voted to stay in the UK in an independence referendum in September, 2014. They considered the matter done then, but some Scottish leaders say that all changed when the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016. A majority of Scotland — 62 percent — voted to stay in the European Union, compared to 48 percent of the UK overall. Both the British and Scottish parliaments would have to hold a new referendum for a Scottish independence referendum to be legally binding.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Scotland should decide its future for itself, again. “If the Scottish Parliament decided they wanted to have a referendum then it would be wrong for Westminster to block it,” he said. “But let’s be absolutely clear, I do not think there should be another referendum, I think that independence would be economically catastrophic for many people in Scotland,” he added.

Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit movement, tweeted “Nicola Sturgeon would lose a second independence referendum big time.”

Photo credit: JAMES GLOSSOP/AFP/Getty Images

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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