The UK’s future relationship with the EU will be clear within the 18-month timeframe proposed by the Scottish Government for a second independence referendum, according to Prime Minister Theresa May.
Nicola Sturgeon said the claim was made during crunch talks between the two leaders in Glasgow yesterday and insisted it undermines Mrs May’s opposition to a second vote on Scotland leaving the UK.
The talks in Glasgow yesterday came ahead a vote in the Scottish Parliament later today where MSPs are expected to formally endorse demands for a second referendum on independence in light of the Brexit vote.
That crunch vote, delayed after the Westminster terrorist attacks last week, comes just a day before Mrs May herself triggers Article 50 starting the two-year countdown to the UK’s departure from the EU on Wednesday.
The First Minister said she found Mrs May’s take on the Brexit timetable “interesting”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “She [Mrs May] is absolutely adamant that she believes the terms of Brexit, but which she means both the exit terms and the divorce deal and the detail of a comprehensive free trade agreement, in other words the future relationship between the UK and EU will be clear, the details of that will be clear before the UK exits the EU.
“I put it to her that what she was suggesting was that in a period of 18 months from now, or two years from now, the terms of the future relationship between the UK and the EU would be clear and she said ‘yes’, that is what she was saying.”
Ms Sturgeon went on: “I think it makes it very difficult for the Prime Minister to maintain a rational opposition to a referendum in the timescale I have set out,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“I think she has got a perfectly rational opposition to a
referendum now, which is why I am not proposing it.
“But I think based on the discussion today I would struggle to see what her rational opposition to it would be in the timescale we have been talking about.”
Power over the constitution is reserved to Westminster and the Scottish Government would require authorisation through a section 30 order to stage a second referendum, similar to the Edinburgh Agreement setting out the terms of the 2014 vote.
The Prime Minister insisted yesterday that her position will not change on a second independence referendum by spring 2019 after rejecting the Scottish Government’s request earlier this month.
Mrs May said a vote
during that time frame would be “unfair” to the Scottish people.
“My position is very simple and it hasn’t changed,” she said. “It is that now is not the time to be talking about a second independence referendum and that’s for a couple of reasons.
“First of all, now is the point when we are triggering Article 50, we’re starting negotiations for leaving the European Union. Now is the time when we should be pulling together, not hanging apart. Pulling together to make sure we get the best possible deal for the whole of the UK.
“Also I think it would be unfair on the people of Scotland to ask them to make a significant decision until all the facts were known.”
Nicola Sturgeon has said the Prime Minister has no rational argument against a second independence referendum following discussions between the two leaders over the Brexit timetable.