Published on 28 Mar 2017

Scotland may have to wait for Brexit to ‘bed in’ before independence vote

The government has toughened its line on a second Scottish independence referendum: Scotland may have to wait for Brexit to “bed in,” it may even have to wait for a transition period after Brexit before a second referendum can take place.

The new line followed the vote by the Scottish Parliament demanding the power to call a referendum within the next two years. Nicola Sturgeon insisted the Prime Minister’s words to her yesterday in a Glasgow hotel, confirming the timetable for Brexit, proved that her own demands for an early referendum were justified.

The truth is you struggle to find many experts or EU counterparts who think the two-year deadline will see a fully finished trade agreement as well as a separation agreement.

After the Article 50 letter is delivered to Brussels tomorrow lunchtime, it won’t be long before we see Brussels’ reply. The expectation is that the EU will spell out that it wants to focus on the Brexit bill, the rights of EU nationals in this year’s discussions. It is also thought the reply could mention prioritising Northern Ireland and the issues of the border with Ireland and maybe also whether there needs to be a transition period to allow trade agreement talks to finish after formal Brexit has happened.

The EU 27 appear to be starting these talks with the position that they want an agreement on how Britain’s outstanding liabilities are calculated, an agreed methodology, before they will move on to the future relationship. That could leave less than a year for negotiations on a new trade relationship to be finalised by the March 2019 deadline. Some argue that would be doable because the UK, unlike other trade agreement partners, starts from the position of meeting EU product and service standards. Many say that’s still far too tight and undeliverable. A transition would be needed if an outline trade deal could be agreed at all.

Brexit triggered this vote in the Scottish Parliament. Many believe it was the main trigger for the Sinn Fein walkout from Stormont. It changes much beyond the original campaigners’ plans and tomorrow it starts in earnest.

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