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Nicola Sturgeon deciding whether to join article 50 legal battle

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Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish government will actively consider whether it will formally join in the next legal battle over the right of MPs to vote on article 50 after the British governments defeat in the high court.

Scotlands first minister told Holyrood on Thursday that the court ruling was hugely significant and it underlines the total chaos and confusion at the heart of the UK government.

Sturgeon hinted that the SNPs 56 MPs in Westminster would vote against the triggering of article 50, given that Scotland voted to remain in the EU.

SNP MPs in the House of Commons will certainly not vote for anything that undermines the will or the interests of the Scottish people, she told first ministers questions at Holyrood.

The Scottish government had legal counsel attending the article 50 hearing throughout as an observer, partly in preparation for a decision by Sturgeon on whether to formally participate in the case.

Sturgeon said she would now look at Thursdays judgment very carefully before deciding on the next steps. We should remember that their refusal to allow a vote in the House of Commons is not some matter of high constitutional principle: it is because they dont have a coherent position and they know that if they take their case to the House of Commons, that will be exposed, she said. The job of this government is to protect Scotlands interests. Scotland voted to remain in the EU and my job is therefore to protect our place in Europe and the single market as far as I possibly can.

Northern Irelands deputy leader, Martin McGuinness, said the high court verdict showed the approach by Mays Conservative party to Brexit had been shambolic I have no faith in the British parliament supporting the democratically expressed wishes of the people of the North to remain in Europe. Any decision taken about the future of the people of Ireland needs to be taken on this island.

The votes of Northern Ireland MPs in the House of Commons could prove critical if Theresa May is forced to ask parliament to trigger article 50. All eight Democratic Unionist party MPs are highly likely to back Brexit in the Commons and the partys leader Nigel Dodds said the ruling was disappointing On 23 June the British people as a whole gave a clear mandate for the UK government to leave the EU. There must be no attempt to block Brexit by people who refuse to accept the will of the people of the UK.

But the position of the two Ulster Unionist (UUP) MPs is less predictable. In June its leader, Mike Nesbitt, called for a remain vote but the party has since switched position and said its MPs will back the government to allow for the referendum result to be implemented. All three SDLP MPs are expected to vote against any triggering of article 50. McGuinness party, Sinn Fin, do not take their seats in Westminster.

We are the chief cornerstone

Earlier on Thursday, the former prime minister Gordon Brown argued in a speech that Britain should adopt a more federal structure to guard against discontent turning to anger as standards of living fall after Brexit.

Brown said wholesale reform of the UK was needed as the nation is united in name only, with a much greater degree of devolution required for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions.

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He said the strains of the vote to leave the EU were already beginning to show as different nations, regions, sectors and companies were desperately seeking their own opt-outs from a hard Brexit.

Gordon Brown speaking in London on Thursday
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Gordon Brown said in a speech on Thursday that we need to reimagine the UK for new times. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Brown said the optimism felt by leave voters in the north of England would in particular be short-lived as the region is more dependent on trade than the south. We could see discontent turn into anger as standards of living fall faster and jobs start to go, he said.

It is clear that the UK in its present form is not working for everyone. To prevent the harmful divisions that now exist from deepening, we need to reimagine the UK for new times.

To address inequalities in the UK, Brown called for EU powers over agriculture, fisheries, regional policies and social funds to be repatriated not to Westminster, but nations and regions. More than half of the 4bn spent annually in the UK by the EU should be returned to local and devolved governments, he said.

He suggested the way to achieve this would be a peoples constitutional convention an idea backed by Jon Trickett, a Labour frontbencher and election coordinator. A peoples convention is the starting point if we are to give fairness, hope and opportunity to the regions, Brown said.

Some of his other suggestions include devolving employment law to Scotland and creating co-decision for the four nations of the UK on fundamental issues so that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would not be able to be taken out of the European convention on human rights against their will.

Zac Goldsmith, the former Conservative MP who is standing in a byelection having quit his Commons seat as a protest against the Heathrow airport expansion, warned that moves to block the UKs exit from the European Union could also lead to anger, saying it would provide a boon for the far right.

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He told LBC radio: If we were to overturn the outcome of the biggest democratic exercise we have ever had in this country 17 million people if we put our fingers up to them, if we turn our backs on them, or ignore them, I think we would see the emergence in this country of the kind of far right extreme movements that plague the continent, but fortunately do not plague this country.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/03/nicola-sturgeon-scotland-mps-joining-article-50-legal-battle-brexit-high-court

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