EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Political leaders in Scotland and Northern Ireland - which both voted to stay in the EU - said Thursday’s legal blow to the British government had exposed the confusion of Prime Minister Theresa May’s approach to Brexit.
The High Court in London ruled that the government could not trigger the formal start of the two-year leaving process on its own but required prior parliamentary approval.
“(The ruling) is hugely significant and underlines the chaos and confusion at the heart of the UK government,” Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said.
“We should remember that (the UK government‘s) refusal to allow a vote in the House of Commons is not because of some matter of high constitutional principle, it is because they don’t have a coherent position ..,” she told the devolved Scottish parliament.
“They know that if they take their case to the (chamber) that will be exposed,” she added.
In Belfast, Northern Ireland’s deputy leader Martin McGuinness said the court verdict showed the approach by May’s Conservative party to Brexit had been “shambolic.”
He added: ”I have no faith in the British parliament supporting the democratically expressed wishes of the people of the North to remain in Europe.
“Any decision taken about the future of the people of Ireland needs to be taken on this island.”
May’s spokeswoman said she still plans to trigger formal divorce talks with the EU by the end of March 2017 and does not believe the court decision will derail that.
The British government has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court against the ruling, and Sturgeon said she would consider whether to join the legal case when it goes to the UK’s highest judicial body next month.
Sturgeon has vowed to do everything in her power to protect Scotland’s EU interests, including keeping the option of a referendum on independence from the UK. Scots rejected independence by a 10 point margin in 2014.
She said of her party’s members of the Westminster parliament: “(Scottish National Party lawmakers) will certainly not vote for anything that undermines the will or the interests of the Scottish people.”
Additional reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Stephen Addison