The Scottish Parliament voted against Theresa May’s landmark Brexit legislation, setting up a potential constitutional crisis and further complicating the path to an orderly departure.
Lawmakers in Edinburgh voted 93-30 to withhold consent for the EU withdrawal bill.
The UK can disregard the vote, but it would be the first time London asserts its dominance over the regional parliament. May had pledged to seek a Brexit that works for all the UK’s nations, but Scotland — which voted to remain in the EU in the referendum — is accusing her of a power grab.
“This is a historic and significant moment for the Scottish Parliament and I hope with all sincerity that the UK government will respect the views of this parliament,” Bruce Crawford, who heads the assembly’s Finance and Constitution Committee, said after the vote.
May’s legislation has already been torn apart by the House of Lords and another battle awaits her when it returns to the lower House of Commons. At the same time she’s struggling to unite her cabinet over what kind of relationship the UK should maintain with Europe, while trying to head off a mutiny by some of her lawmakers.
The prime minister now has to decide whether to press ahead despite the vote or make renewed efforts for some kind of compromise. Overruling Holyrood, the Scottish parliament, would be politically sensitive — particularly over such a historic move as Brexit — and would set a precedent in a constitutional setup that’s only 20 years old.
It also risks playing into the hands of the nationalists who are trying to build a case for another independence referendum.