LECTURING both Scotland and Europe, Prime Minister Theresa May and her Brexiteering minister Liam Fox yesterday put up a hectoring front at the Conservative Party’s spring forum in Cardiff.

May said SNP are “divisive and obsessive” nationalists while Fox harangued the 27 elephants in the Brexiteers’ room saying it would be “politically irresponsible” and “self-defeating” for the remaining European Union countries to erect barriers to trading with the UK after Brexit.

The countdown to Brexit will begin during the next two weeks when May triggers Article 50, the formal mechanism for leaving the European Union, and she acknowledged the process could be “uncertain at times”.

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May has already ruled out a vote on Scottish independence before Brexit has been finalised, and yesterday warmed to her theme.

She said: “The fact more Scottish voters backed Scotland staying in the UK in 2014 than supported the UK staying in the EU in 2016, and that almost half a million independence supporters actually backed Brexit last year, seems to count for nothing.

“It is now clear that using Brexit as the pretext to engineer a second independence referendum has been the SNP’s sole objective ever since last June.

“But it would be bad for Scotland, bad for the United Kingdom, and bad for us all.”

She hit out at the “divisive and obsessive nationalisms” of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, and added: “They [the SNP] are happy to see power rest in Brussels.

“But if those powers come back to London, they want them given to Edinburgh, so that they can try to give them back to Brussels.

“And now they apparently say that an independent Scotland would no longer seek to become a member of the EU after a vote for separation. It is muddle on muddle.”

Also in Cardiff, International Trade Secretary Fox issued his warning to the Brussels officials and EU politicians who will decide the terms of any deal following what he called the “political decision” on Brexit.

He said: “Given the challenges facing commercial interests across the globe, we should all consider whether we really want to create barriers where none currently exist.”

“So, we must be absolutely clear that any new impediments to trade and investment in Europe would not only be politically irresponsible, but economically dangerous – and not just for Europe but for the wider global economy too.

“We know that when we leave the EU, we will not have an EU commissioner, MEPs or a seat at the European Council. That is a political decision that we have consciously taken following the instruction from the British people at the referendum. It is a political response to a political decision.

“But it would surely be wholly inappropriate if our political decision was to be met with an economic response – in other words, if barriers to trade and investment were introduced across Europe that would damage the economic potential of all European citizens and those well beyond Europe too.

“That would be self-defeating.”

Meanwhile, a former Cabinet colleague of May’s, former business secretary Sir Vince Cable, has told an audience of students at Glasgow University that their generation would be “blighted by the consequences of Brexit” which would put funding and schemes such as Erasmus at risk.

Speaking at hustings for the post of rector of the university, he said: “Brexit, if it happens, will do terrible damage to universities.

Your generation are effectively going to be blighted by the consequences of Brexit. Universities are going to be damaged seriously by Brexit. In Scotland 15-20 per cent of staff are from the EU and there are a substantial number of EU students. Now their future is uncertain.”

He added: “I think the biggest challenge you will face is that the era of university expansion may be coming to an end. The Brexit phenomenon may send universities into a downward spiral. There will potentially be enormous financial pressure here.

The role of the rector is that when the battle of resources comes, the interests of the students are at the fore.

“I see my job as standing up for the students in what will be a difficult environment for universities.”