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Turmoil deepens as Scotland threatens to block Brexit

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media outside Bute House, following an emergency Scottish cabinet meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday, June 25, 2016. Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland will launch immediate talks with European Union nations and institutions to find a way to remain in the bloc despite Britain’s vote to leave. Sturgeon says voters in Scotland gave “emphatic” backing to remaining in the bloc. A majority of voters in more-populous England opted to leave.

LONDON >> Britain’s shocking decision to remove itself from the European Union brought more political turmoil Sunday as Scotland’s leader threatened to block the move and the Labour Party’s leader veered dangerously close to losing his post.

The sense of unease spread as European leaders stepped up the pressure on Britain to begin its complex extrication from the 28-nation EU immediately, rather than wait several months as British Prime Minister David Cameron prefers.

With London’s jittery stock market set to reopen Monday, the leaders of the successful campaign to leave the EU stayed largely out of the public eye, offering few signals about their plans.

If they were silent, Scotland was not. Popular First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would “consider” advising the Scottish Parliament to try to use its power to prevent Britain from actually leaving the EU. She said Scottish lawmakers might be able to derail the move by withholding “legislative consent” for a British exit, or Brexit.

“If the Scottish Parliament was judging this on the basis of what’s right for Scotland, then the option of saying ‘We’re not going to vote for something that is against Scotland’s interests,’ of course, that is on the table,” she said of the possibility of withholding consent.

Sturgeon said she believes Scotland’s approval is required for the move but conceded the British government would likely take “a very different view.”

Thursday’s U.K.-wide vote to leave the EU was very unpopular in Scotland, where 62 percent cast ballots to stay, and Sturgeon says she is studying ways to keep Scotland part of the EU bloc.

The Scottish question looms large because Sturgeon also has said another referendum on Scottish independence from Britain is “highly likely” as a result of Britain’s EU vote. A Scottish referendum in 2014 ended with voters deciding to remain in Britain, but analysts believe Britain’s withdrawal from the EU may strengthen the independence movement.

In Northern Ireland, which also is part of the U.K., Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said his priority is forging “special arrangements” to enable Northern Ireland to maintain its EU ties. Some Brexit opponents have also talked of trying to use Northern Ireland’s Assembly to try to block Britain’s departure.

Northern Ireland voters also expressed a preference for keeping Britain in the EU. The unhappiness with the results in both Scotland and Northern Ireland is adding to the sense that the Brexit vote may over time lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, Cameron’s lead official in Belfast, played down the suggestion that the Scottish Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly had the standing to prevent a British departure from the EU.

She said decision-making power resides solely in the British Parliament, which is expected to abide by the results of the referendum, which showed 52 percent of British voters wanted out.

“In the weeks and months ahead, we will be working with both the Scottish government and the Northern Ireland executive on all these matters,” she told BBC. “But ultimately it is (the British) Parliament’s decision.”

Adam Tomkins, a law professor and member of the Scottish Parliament, agreed with this assessment. The Conservative Party legislator tweeted that it was “nonsense” to suggest the Scottish party could block a British departure simply by withholding consent.

The vote is already cutting short Cameron’s career. He said after the results that he will resign as prime minister when the Conservative Party chooses a new leader, who will be charged with implementing the separation from the EU.

The new party leader, who will become prime minister, is expected to be in place by October. At that point, he or she may choose to call a quick election to solidify a mandate — and the prospect of an election in the near future may have spurred a revolt Sunday against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that has been simmering for months.

Corbyn, criticized by many for doing a weak job presenting the party’s position favoring EU membership, for the first time faces an open rebellion from senior members of his “shadow cabinet” — senior figures who advise the party leader on various policy issues.

At least eight members resigned Sunday after Corbyn fired shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn overnight for reportedly plotting a rebellion against him. The dissidents want Corbyn, who represents the far-left wing of the party, ousted before the next general election because many believe he cannot win.

In her resignation letter, shadow Heath Secretary Heidi Alexander bluntly told Corbyn he had to go.

“I do not believe you have the capacity to shape the answers our country is demanding and I believe that if we are to form the next government, a change of leadership is essential,” she wrote.

Corbyn did not respond publicly to the coordinated assault on his leadership, but senior allies said he still has strong support among the party’s rank-and-file members and will not step down.

Concerns about last week’s EU referendum ranged far beyond U.K. politics.

In Rome, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Britain and the EU to manage their divorce responsibly for the sake of global markets and citizens. On Monday, he will be the first senior U.S. official to visit London and Brussels since the referendum, and he said he would bring a message of U.S. support to both capitals.

Anguish over the vote affected many of the 1.2 million British expatriates living in Europe.

Tad Dawson, a 51-year-old pub owner who has lived in Spain since the 1990s, says his future is suddenly very uncertain.

“We’re very scared because I’ve been here 23 years. I’ve got my house. My kids were born here, they went to a British-Spanish school. I’ve got a bar. I’ve got a lot to lose,” Dawson said at his pub in Benidorm, on the Mediterranean coast.

“We don’t know how we’re going to be now,” he said. “We might have no pension. We might have no medical. We may have to sell our properties.”

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  • Hey since Scotland voted to stay with England they lost their sovereignty so shut up and live with your decision. And I Love Scotland but come on you made this decision already.

  • Well, then put pressure on the British Parliament to act like adults and say no to exiting the EU. But also pursue all other ways of blocking the departure and reversing the referendum. A new referendum is possible and must go forward now that the UK citizens are finally waking up. But I do believe there needs to be strict restrictions on refugees trying to enter the EU without permission.

    • It’s wonderful that you know how to manage EU immigration policy better than the elected leaders of the member countries. Good for you!

      Another vote isn’t needed. Parliament can vote to accept the referendum results or not.

      • Which is probably why they are allowing this turmoil in the first place. When the “Leave” supporters slinked back into the shadows, it clearly demonstrated that no plan for extrication was ever really considered. Now when Parliament votes “no” to leaving, there will be few arguments despite the referendum vote. What is of more interest is the rest of Europe pushing for immediate secession.

      • EU open borders and letting hundreds of thousands of Muslims in will be the END of Europe as we now know it. The Muslims will have one THIS CRUSADE.

        • Don’t mind Klastri, the guy is so anti Trump he can’t sleep, he can’t eat and he can’t think. I mean he gets so bent out of shape like a crooked Hillary Pretzel.

        • If you don’t want to read my posts, then don’t. I couldn’t possibly care less about your opinions, so I’m not going to lose any sleep. Believe me.

  • Great idea. Leave the EU.. If Scotland wants to exit Great Britan the fine. England should build a wall like Trump will do on our Southern border. You can’t have open borders and let Muslims take over you country.

    • Well, that’s a very well considered argument. Yes, of course – the Trump way (ignorance, racism, xenophobia) will work everywhere!

      So Scotland should leave Great Britan (sic) and that would be fine? Another well thought out plan!

      “I love the poorly educated!” Go Trump!

  • I lived and worked in Scotland during the run-up to the unsuccessful independence referendum, and I deeply love the country. The SNP, however, is an opportunistic group who, having failed to convince their citizens to leave the UK, will now use the Brexit issue to try again. The economics for an independent Scotland are just not there. North Sea oil has peaked and is in a permanent decline. All the SNP’s economic arguments for independence hinged on permanently high oil prices and maintaining 2013 levels of production. Neither panned out.

    As for Brexit itself, the British (mostly English, actually) have chosen to reject their political and economic elites’ dire warnings. There is a message here about globalization and nationalism that goes beyond the EU and should not be lost on American politicians. When people feel marginalized, ignored, and left behind, they tend to fight back.

    • The economics of Brexit for Scotland and Ireland are not there and this will cause some real problems for both Scotland and Northern Ireland while the rest of Britain will he hit by some economic loss, but as long as Britain is as strong as it is, the English should be able to work through this, but not Northern Ireland and Scotland. And they cannot pull out of Britain to fix this problem. They will need help from Britain, however, and no one has figured this out. When Britain goes out looking for deals with other European countries, it will need to tell people that the deal needs to cover my brothers as well– Scotland and Northen Ireland want a piece of the action. Or Britain will need to provide subsidies to Northern Ireland and Scotland.

  • Buyer’s remorse. Scary though in that some folks who voted “Leave” didn’t even know what the EU was. Same pathetic educational ignorance as with a lot of our citizens.

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