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Europe

May's Brexit plan backed by MPs but shaken by Scots

media British Prime Minister Theresa May. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

British Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the country's parliament Tuesday after MPs gave her the signal to pull the UK out of the European Union. However, May's plans have been wrongfooted by Scotland's decision to hold another independence referendum.RFI takes a look at what's next for Brexit.

What did Theresa May say in front of the House of Commons?

She didn't say much, apart that she would seek royal assent of the Brexit bill in the coming days. She also acknowleged that she had been granted the right to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, which would start the divorce process with the EU.

May is expected to do so by the end of the month.

This is when the real work will begin, with only two years for the EU and the UK to negotiate Brexit and their new relationship.

Did May give indications has to what would be the UK's position during the negotiations?

Nothing new, apart from a commitment to look into the rights of EU citizens already living in the UK.

"All the indications at the moment are that we're not going to get a very clear sense of the government's position during the negociations, appart from the fact that they are ok with a hard Brexit line", explains Roberta Guerrina, the Head of the Department of Politics at the University of Surrey. "This is going to be a very difficult position for the UK vis a vis the EU institutions."

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, announced on Mondayshe would seek a secpnd independence referendum for Scotland. How does that impact the Brexit process?

The British Prime Minister was certainly caught off-guard when Sturgeon announced her plan because such an annoucement hadn't been expected to happen so soon.

It also certainly realises one of Downing Street biggest fears about Brexit ,because it opens up a second battlefront for Theresa May

"She's not weakened, because the government will have to agree to a new referendum," says Roberta Guerrina.

"Nicola Sturgeon can set out her case but the parliament has to give her permission. What it does higlight, is the nature of the constitutional crisis in the UK."

May immediatly condemned the Scottish plan, which comes just three years after the country voted by 55% to reject independence.

Could May refuse to grant Sturgeon's request?

The British parliament at Westminster has to approve any referendum on independence which means she coul.

However, the most likely case here is that it's the date of such a vote that will be a cause for dispute.

The Scottish First Minister favours holding it at the end of 2018 or beginning of 2019, before the UK exits the EU, while May would rather organise it after Brexit occurs.

"So far the argument seems to be more about the timing of a referendum," says Michael Keating, a professor of Politics with the university of Aberdeen. "It's a gamble because the polls are not showing a majority in favour of independence. But last time, the [Yes] started in the low 30% and went up 45%."

Scotland will prove a cause of worry for May.

Polls suggest that a new referendum would be a much closer fight than in 2014 when the country voted 64% to remain in the EU.

"The stakes are different now, because the economic circumstances don't look good for Scotland, but on the other hand, Brexit doesn't look good either," explains Michael Keating.

Theresay May might trigger article 50 soon, but that's only when the real fight will begin.

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