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Brexit: UK PM Theresa May rules out allowing special deals for devolved units

London: On Monday British Prime Minister Theresa May offered to involve Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in regular formal talks on the Brexit process but she has ruled out allowing special deals for the UK's devolved nations.

But Michael Russell, Scotland's Brexit minister, warned that Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon believes "full independence has got to be on the table".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, "Nicola Sturgeon has been absolutely clear that we must keep all options open. It would range from independence and other options would be available too. Of course independence has to be an option. It would be ridiculous to say it shouldn't be. We have been put in a situation we didn't ask to be in".

Russell said it would be a "strange world" if special access to the single market was secured for bankers, but not for Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union on 23 June.

A file photo of Theresa May. Reuters

A file photo of Theresa May. Reuters

Downing Street said May will tell the leaders of the devolved administrations concerned about a possible hard Brexit that final decisions about her approach had not yet been taken and "how the UK leaves the EU will not boil down to a binary choice".

May is under pressure from Sturgeon, Welsh counterpart Carwyn Jones and Northern Ireland's leader Arlene Foster and her deputy Martin McGuinness at the meeting in Downing Street.

The devolved administrations are keen to secure continued participation in the single market and want to hold votes on May's approach before she triggers Article 50, formally beginning the Brexit process.

The Prime Minister has offered them a "direct line" to Brexit Secretary David Davis, who will chair a new forum bringing together representatives from Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont for regular talks on the situation.

Ahead of the talks, officials insisted she was "ready to listen to proposals" put forward by the first ministers about the Brexit process.

May said, "I am determined that as we make a success of our exit from the European Union, we in turn further strengthen our own enduring union. The great union between us has been the cornerstone of our prosperity in the past - and it is absolutely vital to our success in the future".

But leaders in Wales and Scotland have called for the UK Parliament and the three devolved legislatures to be given their own votes on the negotiating position the government intends to take and said that Article 50 should not be triggered until there is an agreed approach.

"We believe that a UK Negotiating Framework should be developed, based on principles and aims (but without revealing a detailed 'negotiating hand') and this, linked to invoking Article 50, should be the subject of a vote in all four of the United Kingdom's parliaments and assemblies," Jones said in a letter to the Prime Minister.

Updated Date: Oct 24, 2016 20:54 PM

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