Theresa May rules out Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a new Scottish independence

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Theresa May rules out Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a new Scottish independence referendum before Brexit, as Lords pass landmark Brexit bill following MP's voteeat
 Kate McCann, senior political correspondent   Laura Hughes,political correspondent   Gordon Rayner, political editor 
13 MARCH 2017 • 10:46PM
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Theresa May has ruled out Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a new Scottish independence referendum before Brexit, but postponed triggering Article 50 after the First Minister’s demands caught her by surprise.
In a day of high drama, Ms Sturgeon appeared to wrong-foot No 10 when she announced she would set the wheels in motion for a second referendum next week, and insisted the ballot should take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 – while the Brexit negotiations are still going on.
The Prime Minister issued a stern rebuke, telling her “politics is not a game”, and accusing her of “tunnel  vision”.Sources close to Mrs May said she would not allow a referendum until  several months after Britain’s EU exit.
Hours after Mrs May’s riposte, Downing Street made the unexpected announcement that the Prime Minister will not now invoke Article 50 before March 27.
The Article 50 Bill is expected to  receive royal assent from the Queen this morning, and it had been widely anticipated that Mrs May would choose today to make the historic announcement. Whitehall departments had been told to work to a March 14 deadline.
Downing Street yesterday insisted that the Prime Minister had always  intended to wait until the end of the month, but Ms Sturgeon’s announcement left Mrs May scrambling to seize back the initiative.
The referendum row overshadowed Mrs May’s achievement in successfully steering the Article 50 Bill through the Commons last night. 
David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, said Britain stands on the threshold of the "most important negotiation for a generation" after Parliament gave Mrs May the power to trigger Brexit.
David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union CREDIT: PA
This evening the Government's Brexit Bill cleared though both Houses of Parliament, paving the way for her to trigger Article 50.
Peers in the House of Lords backed down and accepted the supremacy of elected MPs after they rejected amendments on the issue of giving MPs a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal and guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens. 
Speaking after the result, Mr Davis s aid:  “Parliament has today backed the Government in its determination to get on with the job of leaving the EU and negotiating a positive new partnership with its remaining member states.
“We have a plan to build a Global Britain, and take advantage of its new place in the world by forging new trading links.
“So we will trigger Article 50 by the end of this month as planned and deliver an outcome that works in the interests of the whole of the UK.”
A threatened Tory rebellion on the issue of giving MPs a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal failed to materialise, with the result that two Lords amendments to the Bill were  defeated in the Commons.
Mrs May and Ms Sturgeon now  appear set for a prolonged and bitter fight. And Mrs May now faces the unprecedented challenge of negotiating Brexit while attempting to see off a new campaign for Scottish independence.
The Prime Minister said: “The tunnel vision the SNP has shown today is deeply regrettable; it sets Scotland on a course for more uncertainty and division, creating huge uncertainty.
“And this is at a time when the evidence is that… the majority of the Scottish people don’t want a second independence referendum.”
First Minister of Scotland  CREDIT: SG 
Drawing attention to Ms Sturgeon’s questionable record on domestic policy, Mrs May told her that “instead of playing politics with the future of our country the Scottish Government should focus on delivering good government and services for the people of Scotland”.
Ms Sturgeon claimed she had been forced to act because Mrs May had refused to consider a special Brexit deal for Scotland that would allow it to remain part of the single market.
Her decision to call for a referendum as early as next year represents a huge gamble; a BMG poll for the Herald newspaper yesterday showed 44 per cent of Scots opposing independence, with just 41 per cent supporting it.
The Government defeated the meaningful vote amendment by 331 to 286 and the migrant rights amendments by 335 to 287 CREDIT: EDDIE MULHOLLAND
Equally significantly, 49 per cent said there should be no referendum before Brexit, with just 39 per cent wanting one.
The First Minister said she would next week ask the Scottish Parliament to agree the details of a Section 30 order with Westminster – the legal process that allows a referendum to be held.
She argued that by autumn next year the shape of the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU would be clearer, giving Scots a chance to decide between a future as part of the Union but outside the EU, or a future outside the Union but as part of the EU.
This evening the Government's Brexit Bill cleared though both Houses of Parliament
If Mrs May refused, the Government would not only have “sunk the ship” for Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, but would be “puncturing Scotland’s lifeboat” as well, it was claimed.
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, said the timetable demanded by Ms Sturgeon would “force people to vote blind on the biggest political decision a country could face” because they would not know the details of the Brexit deal by then.
Although Downing Street would not officially be drawn on the timing of any referendum – or even if Mrs May would allow one – it is understood that Mrs May will put off a ballot until several months after Brexit.
It means she will block a referendum until at least summer 2019, though she is unlikely to refuse one altogether, as doing so would risk stoking nationalist fervour north of the border. 
MPs celebrate Brexit Bill passing 
Harry Cole    ✔@MrHarryCole
So lots of Tory MPs celebrating passing of the Brexit Act in Parliament tonight - Greek olives... Italian wine... even the water is French.
10:35 PM - 13 Mar 2017
       6464 Retweets     7272 likes 10:24pm

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