Scotland politics

SNP suggest Brexit delay over Stormont crisis

Angus Robertson
Image caption Angus Robertson said it "stands to reason" that elections in Northern Ireland could affect the Brexit timetable

The SNP has questioned whether the Brexit process should be delayed by the political crisis in Northern Ireland.

The party's deputy leader Angus Roberson pointed out that Theresa May has pledged to consult with devolved administrations over Brexit.

With an election looming at Stormont, Mr Robertson questioned if Article 50 could be triggered in March as planned.

Mrs May said with ministers still in place, her government was still able to take Northern Irish views on board.

The prime minister was also asked about the Scottish Brexit proposals published by Nicola Sturgeon during her weekly question session, while Labour's Ian Murray accused her of being "a threat to the Union".

Meanwhile, Scottish Brexit minister Mike Russell is in London for talks with his UK government counterpart David Davis.

Election 'highly likely'

After deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned in protest over the botched handling of a heating scheme, which could cost taxpayers £490m, his party Sinn Féin has said it will not enter negotiations and is preparing for an election.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said it was "highly likely we are heading towards an election".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mrs May said her government could still take Northern Irish views over Brexit on board

During prime minister's questions, Mr Robertson, who leads the SNP group at Westminster, said it "stands to reason" that this could affect the timetable for Brexit.

He said: "The prime minister has indicated that she wants to take the views of the elected representatives and the devolved institutions on Brexit seriously.

"So it stands to reason that if there is no Northern Irish assembly, and there is no Northern Irish executive for much of the time before the March timetable she has set before invoking Article 50, then she will be unable to properly consult, to fully discuss and to find agreement on the complex issues during this time period.

"In these circumstances, will the prime minister postpone invoking Article 50, or will she just plough on regardless?"

Mrs May responded: "We want to ensure that we do hear views from all parts of the United Kingdom.

"I'm clear that first of all we can find a resolution to the political situation in Northern Ireland so we can continue to see the assembly government continuing.

"But I've also been clear that in the discussions we have, it is still the case that ministers are in place, and that obviously there are executives in place, and we are able to take the views of the Northern Ireland."

Image caption Ian Murray said Theresa May's government was as much of a threat to the union as the SNP

Later in the session, Labour MP Ian Murray said Mrs May's "lack of priority for the single market is putting jobs in Scotland and the economy at risk".

The prime minister has said the UK cannot expect to hold on to "bits" of its EU membership after leaving.

The Edinburgh MP said the suggestion that ties with the single market may be cut meant Mrs May's government "is as big a threat to the Union as the SNP".

He added: "Her government is not worthy of the trust of Scots let alone their blind trust. So will the prime minister take this opportunity to apologise for threatening the Union and give a solemn promise to every single person in this country that they will not be a penny worse off after a Tory Brexit?"

'Best possible deal'

Mrs May accused Mr Murray of "downplaying" the opportunities Brexit could offer the UK..

She said: "You will be very well aware that I want to see the best possible trade deal for the United Kingdom with the EU, the best possible deal for trading with and operating within the single European market.

"Unlike the sort of downplaying that you do about the approach that we are taking I have to say it is this government that is ambitious for the opportunities that are available to this country once we leave the European Union."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has put forward a set of "compromise" proposals for Brexit, which Mrs May was questioned about by SNP MP Chris Law.

She told the Dundee West MP that her government would set out more detail for its Brexit plans in "a matter of weeks".

The prime minister added: "I would like just to remind the honourable gentleman when he talks about the Scottish Government's plan that of course it is his party, the Scottish Nationalist Party, that wants to leave the United Kingdom and therefore leave the European Union."

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