Prime Minister Theresa May is reviving regular meetings with devolved U.K. governments as Scotland expressed skepticism that she can strike a good deal in negotiations to leave the European Union.
May convenes her first Joint Ministerial Committee on Monday with the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to discuss how they can work together to get the best outcome from Brexit, the prime minister’s office said in a statement. The JMC hasn’t met since December 2014.
“We are much more than the sum of our parts,” May said in the statement. “I want Monday’s meeting to be the start of a new grown-up relationship between the devolved administrations and the U.K. government.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is already preparing legislation for another referendum on independence if May strikes a Brexit deal that takes the country out of the EU single market for goods and services. Scotland and Northern Ireland, the only part of the U.K. to share a land border with the EU, voted overwhelmingly to remain part of the union.
“The Scottish government is becoming increasingly concerned that the U.K. is heading for a hard Brexit with all the damage that will bring to the Scottish and U.K. economies,” Michael Russell, the minister for U.K. negotiations on Scotland’s place in Europe, said in a statement. “Four months on from the referendum, we have yet to see a proposal from the U.K. government on how the views of people in Scotland will be taken into account.”
Hilary Benn, an opposition lawmaker and head of a parliamentary committee that will scrutinize the work of the Department for Exiting the European Union, said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that parliament should be able to vote on the government’s negotiating objectives.
Benn also said that the U.K. should be prepared to seek a “transitional agreement” with European leaders if it is unable to secure both a withdrawal agreement and a new trading relationship within the two-year period provided by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union which allows for withdrawal.
The Monday meeting will follow Brexit Secretary David Davis’ trip to Scotland on Friday to discourage independence moves. May’s government has so far refrained from clarifying whether or not it intends to stay in the single market.
Transport Minister Chris Grayling told the Marr show on Sunday he’s “convinced we will have tariff-free trade” and “sensible trading arrangements” since “nobody in continental Europe benefits from a reduction in the ability to trade with the United Kingdom.”