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Dr Mike Finn on Article 50 and a second Scottish referendum.

Dr Mike Finn, an expert on British politics and the constitution, from the University of Warwick, comments on the arrival of the date to trigger Article 50 and Nicola Sturgeon's call for a second Scottish referendum.

"The phoney war is over - real politics is back. The past nine months has been political theatre, shadowboxing within the UK and without; the arrival of Article 50's triggering means that the real battle for Britain's exit - and possibly the fate of Britain itself in the wake of Nicola Sturgeon's announcement - is on.

"Brexit was always likely to trigger a real constitutional crisis. So far the strength of Britain's uncodified constitution has been tested in the courts; now Britain's very survival as a state will be tested again. It is not clear that Britain will survive it. Though the economic prospects for Scotland outside the union do not look promising, and though exiting the UK doesn't mean Scotland will be a member of the EU as of right, that may not matter. The UK as a whole - and particularly the English - voted for Brexit despite economic warnings, which may yet bear fruit in the event of a 'hard Brexit'. Nationalist sentiment trumped economic rationality. There is no reason to suppose it will be any different in Scotland.

"Those making confident predictions about a Scottish referendum outcome are misguided. The question isn't the same as it was in 2014 - as the UK has materially changed as a result of Brexit. More than this, we've seen greater volatility in UK politics over the past couple of years than in a very long time. That process is only going to continue as the cut and thrust of Brexit negotiations begin.

"This could be a ploy by Sturgeon to force May into a truly-federal UK, with Westminster retaining few formal powers in relation to Scotland as the price of keeping Scotland in the Union. It could be a ploy to force May off track in her brinkmanship over a 'hard Brexit'. But whatever the politics, it's worth bearing in mind that there's some validity in Sturgeon's claim that what the government is talking about in terms of Brexit is now a world away from what the Leave lobby offered prior to the vote last June. Single-market membership has gone, the Norway option has been axed, and now an exit with 'no deal' is openly-contemplated. It's fair for Sturgeon to say that Scotland, who voted to remain last June, certainly would never have voted for this.

"Ping pong may be about to begin between the two Houses of Parliament, and if so we'll be treated to some political theatre. But there is a darkness over Westminster. The fate of the state is at stake. And after months of rhetoric, we are about to meet reality. And reality bites."


Dr Mike Finn is an expert on UK politics and the constitution. He has worked in Westminster as a speechwriter and political adviser. He is Deputy Head of the School for Cross-Faculty Studies in the Liberal Arts Division at the University of Warwick.


Andrea Cullis: Media Relations Manager, University of Warwick

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