LONDON — Theresa May has announced her intention to block a second Scottish independence referendum before Britain has left the EU.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Monday that she intends to call a referendum at some point between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019, just months before the UK is due to leave the EU.
The prime minister has told Sturgeon that it would “not be fair” to expect the Scottish people to vote again when they did not know what the future partnership with the UK would be or “what an independent Scotland would look like”.
Responding to Sturgeon’s speech, a spokesperson for the prime minister said that holding a second referendum during Brexit negotiations would be the “worst possible time”.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson also said that a second referendum “cannot happen” before Brexit.
“A referendum cannot happen when the people of Scotland have not been given the opportunity to see how our relationship with the European Union is working,” she said in a statement.
Blocking a referendum is a risky move for the prime minister. Polling expert John Curtice told Business Insider that doing so would cause a surge in support for independence and be “politically catastrophic.”
“Given that it won’t require a great number of people to change their minds before we are in the realm where “Yes” are ahead, I wouldn’t want to take that risk [of denying Scotland a referendum] if I were the UK government,” Curtice said.
The move would also put May at odds with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn said last week that while he opposed a second referendum it would be “absolutely fine” to hold one if the Scottish parliament vote to do so.
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