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Sturgeon welcomes Brexit court ruling

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Nicola Sturgeon has welcomed as "hugely significant" a court ruling that parliament must vote before the UK can start the process of leaving the EU.

Ms Sturgeon also said the Scottish government was considering become an active participant in the case.

The ruling means the UK government cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - beginning formal exit negotiations with the EU - on its own.

It is appealing to the Supreme Court, with a further hearing due next month.

The case, which was heard by three judges, is widely regarded as being one of the most important constitutional rulings in generations.

The Scottish government had instructed legal representatives to observe the proceedings, but was not directly involved.

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International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told the House of Commons the government was "disappointed" but remained "determined to respect the result" of the EU referendum.

Speaking at first minister's questions at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said the ruling would not have come as a huge surprise to anyone who had been following the case.

'Chaos and confusion'

She added: "We will be looking at the judgement very carefully, and yes we will actively consider whether or not there is a case for the Scottish government to become participants in that case."

The first minister also said the ruling was "hugely significant and underlines the total chaos and confusion at the heart of the UK government".

She claimed the UK government had attempted to avoid a vote by MPs because "they don't have a coherent position and they know that if they take their case to the House of Commons that will be exposed."

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Ms Sturgeon also reiterated that she was determined to protect Scotland's place in Europe and in the single market "as far as I possibly can".

She added: "SNP MPs in the House of Commons will certainly not vote for anything that undermines the will or the interests of the Scottish people."

Responding to the ruling, Scottish Labour Europe spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: "This ruling shows that the Tories can't get away with "Brexit means Brexit" any more.

"Theresa May must put her negotiating objectives in front of parliament as soon as possible, and respect both the judgement of the court and the vital role of parliament in a democratic country."

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said, if the court's decision was not overturned, there could be delays with potentially "months and months" of parliamentary hurdles.

'Half Brexit'

But there was not yet "clarity" - if the judgement was not overturned - on whether there would be a "short, sharp" vote or whether parliament would have to consider complex legislation, he added.

He predicted that, although a majority of MPs had backed the Remain campaign, most would ultimately be likely to vote for Article 50, as Brexit had been supported in the referendum.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said he fears a "betrayal" of the 51.9% of voters who backed leaving the EU in June's referendum and voiced concern at the prospect of a "half Brexit".

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