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Parliament Clears Way for ‘Brexit’ Talks as Scottish Vow Independence Vote

“We are now on the threshold of the most important negotiation for our country in a generation,” Mr. Davis added in a statement.

The House of Commons last month gave the prime minister and her government the approval the High Court said they needed to proceed with negotiations on Brexit. But the unelected House of Lords then approved two amendments calling for guarantees that European Union residents of Britain have the right to remain and giving Parliament more say in the final deal on leaving the union.

The government argued that it should guarantee the rights of European Union nationals only when Britain received reciprocal assurances about its citizens in continental Europe. It also said that giving Parliament more say over a Brexit deal would impede Mrs. May’s negotiating freedom.

On Monday night, elected lawmakers in the House of Commons overturned both amendments, and the House of Lords yielded by a significant majority, in line with parliamentary protocol, handing Mrs. May her wish of unimpeded authority. She is now in a position to fulfill her promise to send formal notification, by the end of the month, of the start of withdrawal talks under Article 50 of the European Union’s treaty.

Ms. Sturgeon’s call for a new referendum underscores the mood of uncertainty within one of Europe’s most durable political systems, after the divisive referendum in June in which 52 percent of Britons voted to leave the European Union.

Scotland voted 62 to 38 percent to remain in the bloc, however, illustrating the divergence between Scottish and English politics. Since then, Mrs. May has rejected calls from Ms. Sturgeon for a so-called soft Brexit that would keep Scotland, at least, inside the European Union’s single market and its tariff-free customs union.

With opinion polls showing Scots almost equally divided over the merits of independence, the threat of another referendum that could break the United Kingdom apart complicates what was already a highly complex Brexit negotiation for Mrs. May.

Speaking in Edinburgh on Monday morning, Ms. Sturgeon said she would seek permission from the Scottish Parliament to hold a second referendum, which she said should be staged between fall 2018 and spring 2019 — before Britain quits the European Union.

While that should be straightforward, given the dominance of her pro-independence Scottish National Party in the Edinburgh Parliament, the approval of Mrs. May could prove more complicated. Politically, it may be hard for Mrs. May to refuse, though she may try to delay any new vote in Scotland until after the withdrawal, calculating that this would make it harder for the independence campaign to prevail.

Ms. Sturgeon said that unless Mrs. May made further concessions, Scots should be able to choose whether to follow other Britons into “a hard Brexit, or to become an independent country able to secure a real partnership of equals with the rest of the U.K. and our own relationship with Europe.”

She also argued that, in its current, weakened state, and trailing in opinion polls, Britain’s opposition Labour Party stands little chance of winning a general election, and that independence was the only way for Scots to prevent themselves from being governed — possibly for a decade — by Mrs. May’s Conservative Party, which has limited support in Scotland.

In response, Mrs. May said a referendum would set Scotland on course for “uncertainty and division,” arguing that most Scottish voters did not want another vote on independence.

During the previous referendum, the economic case against Scottish independence seemed to prove decisive — and that argument may have gotten stronger since, because of the global decline in the price of oil, a bulwark of the Scottish economy. In 2014, however, opponents of independence argued that an independent Scotland would lose its membership of the European Union.

Source: NYT > World

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