There are no circumstances in which Scottish National Party MPs will vote to trigger Article 50, according to the party’s Brexit minister.
Theresa May has pledged to trigger the legal mechanism, which will kickstart the two-year Brexit negotiation process, in March. A Supreme Court ruling is due tomorrow on whether the prime minister has to put the issue before parliament first.
Michael Russell, minister for UK negotiations on Scotland’s place in Europe, told BBC Sunday Politics that SNP representatives in the House of Commons would “absolutely” oppose triggering Article 50 should it be subject to a parliamentary vote.
“I can’t conceive of circumstances in which we would support the triggering of Article 50,” he said.
“As I say, the triggering not only takes this forward in an unacceptable way, it declares the type of country that Theresa May wants this country to be.
“That’s not the country that I and my colleagues, and indeed all of Scotland, want it to be,” he added.
May confirmed last week that Britain will pursue a “hard Brexit” and leave the EU’s single market in order to gain full control of immigration from the bloc.
Analysis by a Scottish think tank found that a “hard Brexit” could cost Scotland up to 80,000 jobs, reduce GDP by £8 billion, and cut average pay by £2,000 ($2,542) a year.
Sturgeon believes that she has the mandate to keep Scotland in the single market as the country voted to remain in the EU by a margin of 62% to 38%.
The Scottish government laid out plans in December to keep Scotland in the single market even if the rest of the UK leaves, but May insisted at the time the UK will be “unified” in its response to Brexit negotiations, meaning that Scotland will almost certainly leave the single market along with the rest of the UK.
The SNP holds 52 of Scotland’s 56 seats in Westminster from a total 650. The majority of Labour and Conservative MPs will vote to trigger Article 50, so voting against Article 50 would represent a protest vote rather than a roadblock for the prime minister.
Sturgeon will hope, however, that the move indicates to Scottish voters a growing division between Scotland and the rest of the UK as she pushes for a second independence referendum.