May Calls Scottish, Welsh Leaders to Discuss Brexit

By Aine Quinn

 Theresa May on March 2. Photographer: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Theresa May on March 2.
Photographer: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones after setting out her Brexit priorities and plans for trade relations in a London speech.

May told the leaders late Friday the U.K. would seek “customs arrangements that would lead to as frictionless trade as possible with our European neighbors, as well as ensure no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland,” a Downing Street spokesman said Saturday. May and Sturgeon discussed progress on a clause of the European Union withdrawal bill, which the Scottish leader has called a “power grab.”

Sturgeon, in a tweet Saturday on the call with May, said she reiterated the Scotland government’s position on remaining a member of the single market and customs union and “emphasized again the issue of principle at stake — we will not agree to a power grab.

In her Friday speech, May conceded that the U.K. won’t get everything it wants in the negotiations with the EU but she maintained her aim to reach an unprecedented trade deal that her Cabinet has rallied behind even though European officials think it’s unrealistic.

 Separately, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell — an architect of the peace accord that ended hostilities in Northern Ireland — said the risk of violence if Brexit led to a hard border between the province and the Republic of Ireland is high enough that leaders should take action.

The real danger of a hard border “is not the immediate resurgence of violence although that certainly is a problem, I think it’s the change in attitude,” Mitchell said Saturday on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program.


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