LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday rejected a call from Scotland’s leader for a referendum on Scottish independence before Britain leaves the European Union.
May said “now is not the time” to reopen Scotland’s independence debate, though she did not rule out a referendum in the future. Britain is due to begin the two-year exit process from the 28-nation bloc by the end of this month.
The United Kingdom is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The country as a whole decided in a June 23 referendum to leave the EU, but in that ballot Scots voted 62 to 38 percent to remain.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced earlier this week that she will seek a referendum on Scottish independence between the fall of 2018 and spring 2019, so voters can decide whether to leave the EU with the rest of the United Kingdom or to go it alone.
The British government must agree to a legally binding referendum and May said “now is not the time.”
“All our energies should be focused on our negotiations with the European Union,” May said, adding that holding a referendum while EU exit talks are still underway would “make it more difficult for us to get the right deal for Scotland and the right deal for the U.K.”