Scotland politics

Sturgeon attends emergency British-Irish Council summit

Summit Image copyright Welsh Government / Twitter
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon attended the summit convened by her Welsh opposite number Carwyn Jones

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has had "frank and robust" talks with the British-Irish Council at a meeting to discuss the impact of the Brexit vote.

Ms Sturgeon travelled to Wales with other political leaders for an "extraordinary summit" of the group.

The council normally meets annually, last convening in Glasgow in June.

Ms Sturgeon said the emergency meeting was "one of the most important ever" for the group, coming in the aftermath of the UK's vote to leave the EU.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, who convened the Cardiff summit, said afterwards that the devolved governments should need to give permission before the formal process of Brexit begins.

The group includes representatives of the UK and Irish governments, the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and the governments of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Negotiation process

Ms Sturgeon was joined by her Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts Mr Jones and Arlene Foster, the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Scotland Office minister Lord Dunlop.

The special session of the council was called by Mr Jones to discuss the implications of the Brexit vote, including questions over the land border between the UK and continuing EU member Ireland.

He said there would be "fundamental changes" as a result of the referendum, adding: "During this tumultuous time, it is more important than ever to maintain the strength of this relationship and work together to map out a successful way forward."

He said the session had been "hugely helpful" in identifying challenges, with the council resolving to work together to find solutions.

Image caption Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to make sure Scotland played a full role in future Brexit talks

Ms Sturgeon said there had been a "frank and very robust" discussion at the meeting, with her focus on ensuring Scotland plays a full part in the Brexit discussions.

She questioned the process by which the decision to trigger Article 50, the formal process of leaving the European Union, will be made. Mr Jones said devolved governments should have to give approval for this, and Ms Sturgeon said she was broadly supportive of this.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I put forward very clearly the fact that a majority of people who voted in Scotland voted to remain, and that that meant we have a mandate to try to prevent the damaging consequences of Brexit for Scotland.

"Sometimes these discussions seem very abstract, but the consequences of Brexit are potentially severe, for jobs and for trade and for our universities, for skills, for our ability to grow our population, so my mandate is to seek to protect Scotland's interests, and I was very clear that that's my job.

"Much of the discussions focused on how the devolved administrations will now be heard in the process leading up to the triggering of Article 50.

"I've been very clear, as were many of the other administrations, that we need to be meaningfully and very closely involved, and there were some reflections on how the decision to trigger Article 50 should be taken, and how the UK government in taking that decision will make sure that the views of the devolved administrations are listened to."

For the UK government, Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire repeated the prime minister's line that "Brexit means Brexit", but insisted that Theresa May's administration is "in listening mode".

On the subject of the Irish border, Mr Kenny said "there will not be a hard border from Dundalk to Derry".

'Consider all options'

Ms Sturgeon has pledged to protect Scotland's links with Europe after Scottish voters backed remaining in the EU by a margin of 62% to 38%.

She said: "My position here is simple. Scotland voted to remain, so how do we protect that? Can we find a way of doing that within the UK? I would say that those in the UK government who back the union have a vested interest in trying to find that way.

"Or, do we need to look at the option of independence as a way of protecting our position? At the moment for me all options are on the table, but there must be a willingness to consider all those options."

The prime minister, who visited Scotland shortly after taking office, has voiced willingness to consider options - although she said at her first Westminster question session that some of those mooted were "impracticable".

Ms Sturgeon said she had not discussed "particular options in detail" with the prime minister, but noted that "we are in unprecedented times".

She added: "This is uncharted territory, and in these circumstances I think there's both a duty and an opportunity, to be prepared to put innovative solutions forward, and that's what the Scottish government will be doing.

"If the UK government wants to do anything other than send a message to Scotland that our voice doesn't matter, then surely they have an obligation to try to find ways of respecting how Scotland voted."

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites