SNP: Delay Article 50 until Stormont crisis resolved

Posted On: 
11th January 2017

Angus Robertson has urged Theresa May to delay the planned triggering of Article 50 until after the political crisis in Northern Ireland is resolved. 

Angus Robertson asked the Prime Minister how she planned to resolve the stand-off in Northern Ireland.
Parliament TV

The SNP Westminster leader asked if the Prime Minister would “plough on regardless”, even if she cannot consult each of the UK governments on Brexit as planned.

Martin McGuinness’ resignation as Deputy First Minister over a botched energy scheme could spark a fresh election should Sinn Fein fail to fill the position by Monday.

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The terms of the Belfast Agreement mean neither the first minister or their deputy can be active without the other. Sinn Fein has vowed to leave the post unfilled. 

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said yesterday that a fresh election at Stormont was “inevitable” if differences between the executive's two major parties cannot be resolved.

Today Mr Robertson warned the Prime Minister her plan to trigger Article 50 before the end of March should be dependent on how the crisis develops.

“It stands to reason that if there is no Northern Irish Assembly and no Northern Irish Executive for much of the time before her March timescale for invoking Article 50, she will be unable to properly consult, fully discuss and find agreement on the complex issues during this time period,” he said at Prime Minister's Questions today. 

“In these circumstances, will the Prime Minister postpone invoking Article 50, or will she just plough on regardless?”

Mrs May told MPs she would make “every effort” to save the province’s institutions, having already spoken to Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

She said it was vital not to put the Northern Ireland peace process "in jeopardy", and that in the seven-day limit to replace the deputy first minister a political solution could be found. 

She added that ministers and executives remained in place to discuss Brexit, so the Government was "still able to take the views of the people of Northern Ireland.”

The Renewable Heat Initiative scheme allowed firms to rake in more in subsidies than they were paying for renewable fuel, with taxpayers in line to foot a £400m bill for the botched programme.

In a fiery resignation letter, Mr McGuinness said his DUP counterpart had shown a “deep-seated arrogance” which was inflicting “enormous damage” on the Executive.

First minister Arlene Foster has she is willing to open discussions to prevent a collapse of power sharing in the region, but Sinn Fein have so far refused talks.