Scotland is headed for another vote on independence, opening a new front in the Brexit battle and raising the prospect of the U.K. breaking up after leaving the European Union.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Monday she plans to start the legal process for a referendum to be held by the spring of 2019.
The announcement comes as the U.K. prepares to trigger Brexit negotiations, which Scotland’s semi-autonomous government opposes after the nation voted to stay in the EU.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said it means Scotland faces “more uncertainty and division.”
The Scottish unrest risks more constitutional upheaval just as May readies to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty as soon as this week, further complicating her government’s preparations for Brexit. Scotland has been pushing to retain access to the EU’s single market regardless of whether the rest of the U.K. abandons it.
Sturgeon and her Scottish National Party have said Scots are being ignored and the only way to fix the “democratic deficit” is to gain full independence.
The Scottish government repeatedly sought compromise with the U.K., only to be “met with a brick wall of intransigence,” Sturgeon told reporters in Edinburgh. “I will now take the steps necessary so Scotland will have the choice at the end of this process.”
“I’m doing what I think is right for the country and I’m planning to win.”
The SNP, which runs the administration in Edinburgh, has been building momentum for another independence push since Scotland voted to remain in the EU in last June’s referendum.
With the U.K. government threatening a “hard Brexit cliff edge,” Sturgeon said there are “massive implications for Scotland, for our economy, jobs, opportunities, public spending and living standards.”
The EU has said Scotland can’t retain the U.K.’s membership and would have to apply as a new state.
That involves having to convince the Spanish that its new independence wouldn’t create a road map for Catalonia to secede. Another, quicker option would be to seek access to the single market and the free travel area rather than full EU member status. Bloomberg