Q&A: Why the Brexit result is not cut and dried

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media outside Bute House in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo / AP
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media outside Bute House in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo / AP

Could MPs ignore the British referendum result?

The short answer is yes. This is because the result of the referendum on Britain's EU membership is not legally binding. It's simply advisory and could be disregarded by the Government.

What about Scotland's role?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the Scottish Parliament could try and block the UK leaving the EU using an obscure legal mechanism even if it infuriates the English.

What is her argument?

Sturgeon said she believes Westminster requires a legislative consent motion (LCM) from the Scottish Parliament to enact Brexit as it impacts directly on the latter's devolved responsibilities.

How would Scotland react?

She confirmed that SNP MSPs would seek to block any such motion, even if this prevented the UK from leaving the EU, in order to reflect the overwhelming Remain vote in Scotland. The SDLP later echoed her intervention, warning the Northern Irish "have the right to say no".

What does this mean for Brexit?

The threat raises the prospect of a prolonged legal battle over enacting the result of the referendum, which saw the Scots and Northern Irish vote by overwhelming margins to Remain.

Do others agree?

David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, and Theresa Villiers, his Northern Irish counterpart, said the devolved administrations cannot veto Brexit. James Chalmers, Regius Professor of Law at the University of Glasgow, said they could only make the process more "awkward" by rejecting the LCM.

What support is there for Sturgeon's position?

The First Minister was asked about a Lords report outlining the role of the UK's three devolved parliaments in implementing the legal agreement implementing the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Sir David Edward, who sat on the European Court of Justice between 1992 and 2004, told the Lords EU select committee that the consent of the Scottish Parliament would be required for any measures "extinguishing the application of European law in Scotland". This would be provided by the Scottish Parliament passing an LCM, a device used where Westminster wants to legislate in devolved areas. Sturgeon argued that such a motion would be required for the "legislation that extricates the UK from the EU".

What is her view on that?

She told the BBC: "Looking at it from a logical perspective, I find it hard to believe that there wouldn't be that requirement - I suspect that the UK Government will take a very different view on that and we'll have to see where that discussion ends up." Pressed whether she would consider asking the Scottish Parliament not to back the LCM, she replied "of course". She added: "If the Scottish Parliament was judging this on the basis of what's right for Scotland then the option of saying look we're not to vote for something that's against Scotland's interest, of course that's got to be on the table".

What about another Scottish independence vote?

Sturgeon also warned that the next Prime Minister would be fighting a losing battle to stop her staging a second independence referendum and argued that the UK that Scots voted to remain in two years ago no longer exists. She rejected claims that a European Commission briefing note to MEPs means Scotland would not be permitted to stay in the EU while the rest of the UK comes out, saying the situation was completely unprecedented and there were "no rules".

- Daily Telegraph UK

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