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Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar eye turbulent future

UK & Europe

Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar eye turbulent future



Three of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom that voted to remain in the EU – Scotland, Northern Ireland and tiny Gibraltar – are now facing calls for referendums on their future.

Scotland voted 45%-55% to remain in the UK in the 2014 referendum, but the ruling Scottish National party in Edinburgh always made it clear a decision to leave the EU, if Scotland voted remain, could trigger the circumstances for a second such referendum.

Early on Friday (24 June), Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said simply: “Scotland sees its future as part of the EU.

“Scotland voted clearly and decisively to remain part of the European Union, 62 to 38%.”

Although that stopped short of demanding a second referendum – which Westminster would have to give permission for – it is likely the SNP administration in Edinburgh is now calculating how and when to demand such a vote.

Last month, reported that previous SNP leader, Alex Salmond, predicted Scotland would go independent “within two years” of a Brexit vote.

Salmond predicts Scotland could be independent ‘within 2 years’ of Brexit

Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond predicted on Monday (9 May) that Scotland could be independent within two years of a Brexit vote.

German MEP Manfred Weber, chair of the European Peoples Party – the largest in the Parliament – said Friday morning, “Europe is open to new member states,” seemingly in a direct reference to Scotland.

To add fuel to the fire, the de facto Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrived in Scotland on Friday – ostensibly to open his new golf course.

Trump told reporters he thought Britain’s vote to leave the EU was “fantastic”.

“I think it’s going to be great. I think it’s a fantastic thing,” he said at Turnberry, a golf course he owns in south west Scotland.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is now facing the prospect of a “hard border” between it and the Republic of Ireland to the south.

Martin McGuiness, of Sinn Fein, has already called for a border poll on a united Ireland.

Even short of that, an “international” border between North and South would likely stir memories of Northern Ireland’s recent troubled past.

In Spain, Madrid has already proposed sharing sovereignty over Gibraltar, after Britain voted to leave the European Union, saying it would allow the overseas territory to maintain access to the EU’s single market.

“Our formula… is British-Spanish co-sovereignty for a determined period of time, which after that time has elapsed, will head towards the restitution of Gibraltar to Spanish sovereignty,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Spanish radio.

Gibraltar’s 30,000 residents voted overwhelming to stay in the EU, by 19,322 votes to 823.

The tiny rocky outcrop has a land border – which doubles as a runway – with Spain, which will now become another “hard” border. The Rock, as it is known, relies in large part on access to the single market for its thriving economy.

Spain’s conservative government, which has been in place since 2011, has been particularly vocal about its desire to see Gibraltar come back into its fold, and the Rock is worried that Brexit will leave it at the mercy of Madrid.

Spain itself goes to the polls on Sunday (26 June) to elect a new government – a decision now bound to be affected by Britain’s out vote.

Margallo said the issue of Gibraltar was no longer within the remit of the European Union.

“It is now a bilateral issue that will be negotiated exclusively between the United Kingdom and Spain,” he added, saying a solution would have to be found if Gibraltar wanted to keep its access to the EU’s single market.

In a tweet, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo called for calm.

“We have surpassed greater challenges. It is time for unity, for calm & for rational thinking. Together & united we will continue to prosper,” he said.