ANGUS Robertson has pressed Theresa May if she will postpone invoking Article 50 because of the Stormont crisis which is likely to leave Remain supporting Northern Ireland with little say in the process of leaving the European Union.
The SNP’s Westminster leader spoke out after it seems certain there will be no Northern Ireland Assembly and no Northern Ireland Executive over much of the next three months when May heads towards starting the legal procedure for leaving the bloc.
“It stands to reason if there is no Northern Ireland Assembly and no Northern Ireland Executive for much of the time before the March timetable that she has set for invoking Article 50, she will be unable to consult properly, to discuss fully and to find agreement on the complex issues during this period,” said Robertson in the Commons yesterday.
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To howls from Leave supporting MPs he continued: “In these circumstances, will the Prime Minister postpone invoking Article 50 or will she just plough on regardless?”
May failed to give a direct answer to Robertson, saying she hoped over the next week a solution would be found which would see the Assembly continuing.
Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein veteran, resigned on Monday signalling the end of an historic power-sharing administration.
He resigned over his concerns about a green energy initiative set up by the DUP First Minister Arlene Foster when she was economy minister.
Sinn Fein and other parties had called for Foster to step aside while an inquiry got under way to investigate how the Renewable Heat Initiative had overspent by £400m. But Foster refused.
His resignation means the imminent collapse of the fragile government as under power-sharing rules a Unionist party such as the DUP cannot govern without the support of a nationalist party such as Sinn Fein.
Sinn Féin has seven days to re-nominate a new deputy first minister following McGuinness’s resignation. However, the party is adamant it will not replace him, meaning an end to the executive.
Like Scotland, Northern Ireland voted to Remain in the EU.
Scottish Labour’s sole MP Ian Murray also pressed May on Brexit at Prime Minister’s Questions.
The former shadow Scottish secretary said “her lack of priority for the single market is putting jobs in Scotland and the economy at risk” adding that “her Government are as big a threat to the Union as the SNP”.
“Her Government are 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?” he said. May accused Murray of “downplaying” the opportunities Brexit could offer to the UK as she responded.
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.
“When we enter the negotiations obviously that is one of the issues that I have said that I want to see and we will be out there and will be delivering on it.
“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.”
It also emerged yesterday that UK ministers have privately conceded they are very likely to lose a landmark legal case on Brexit in the supreme court and have drawn up at least two versions of a bill that could be tabled after the ruling.
It was reported that senior government figures are convinced seven of the 11 judges will uphold the high court’s demand that Theresa May secure the consent of MPs and peers before triggering Article 50.
It is understood that more than one possible bill has been prepared so that the ministers are ready to respond to any detailed guidance from the judges into what the legislation should look like.