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New U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May met the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh Friday, in what is seen as an attempt to cool talk of a potential breakup of Britain.
The visit to Scotland's capital marked May's first official visit to any other leader since becoming prime minister. After the 45-minute meeting May told reporters that the government would not be triggering the country's exit from the European Union until a U.K.-wide approach had been agreed upon.
In the U.K's EU referendum on June 23, Scotland voted convincingly to stay a part of the European Union. But the wider U.K. voted to leave and Scotland's ruling nationalist party argues that the country should not be taken out of Europe "against its will."
Prior to the Brexit vote, Scottish leader Sturgeon argued that such a scenario could necessitate another referendum, this time on whether Scotland should stay a part of the union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In a 2014 referendum on independence, Scotland voted by a margin of 55 to 45 to remain a part of the United Kingdom.
Theresa May made the trip to demonstrate her "commitment to preserving the special union" and to affirm her government's commitment to fully engage with the Scotland in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. She also told reporters that Scotland had their vote on independence in 2014, according to Reuters.
Speaking after the meeting, Sturgeon told reporters that it would be inconceivable for the United Kingdom to block a second independence referendum if the devolved parliament in Edinburgh voted for it, according to Reuters.
"I think it would be inconceivable for any prime minister to seek to stand in the way of a referendum if that's what the Scottish parliament voted for," Sturgeon told broadcasters, according to the news agency.
Speaking on BBC radio Friday morning, the Scottish Secretary David Mundell confirmed that Scotland might be able to pursue a separate deal with the EU post-Brexit.
"If it is possible then of course it will be looked at, which is why I've said that the first minister (Sturgeon) is welcome to pursue any separate arrangements," he said. However, Mundell also stressed the difficulties of such a move. "It is clear that we had a vote on whether the U.K. should leave the EU and it is very difficult to envisage the U.K. signing up to part remaining while the rest leaves."