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After Brexit vote, Scotland and N. Ireland reconsider ties to Britain

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Jane Barlow/PA/AP

(Read caption) Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, casts her Brexit vote in Glasgow, Scotland, on Thursday. Friday morning, in response to the vote to leave the European Union, she said that another referendum to leave Britain is 'highly likely.'

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This story was updated at 9:45 a.m. Friday.

It is less than 12 hours since Britain's decision to leave the European Union, and there are already calls within the United Kingdom's countries to leave England and remain in the EU.

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Popular vote within England may have come down clearly in favor of leaving the EU, but citizens in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted decisively to stay. In Scotland, every region voted to remain, with a majority 62 percent wanting to stay with the European bloc. In Northern Ireland, the remain majority was about 56 percent, Reuters reports.

This morning, officials in Scotland and Northern Ireland are grappling with how to move forward now that they will be split off from the European Union, against the will of the majority of their voters. In neighboring Ireland, an emergency cabinet meeting was called to discuss what this means for the country's relationship with Britain.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that the government will most likely hold another vote about whether to stay in the United Kingdom, just two years after citizens reaffirmed their allegiance to Britain in a referendum.

Ms. Sturgeon said the government was already drawing up legislation for another referendum and that is "democratically unacceptable" for Scotland to be forced to leave the EU after voting to remain.

Meanwhile Northern Ireland's deputy first minister Martin McGuinness called for a vote to unite Northern Ireland with Ireland, the EU nation with the fastest-growing economy, Reuters reports.

"The British government now has no democratic mandate to represent the views of the North in any future negotiations with the European Union and I do believe that there is a democratic imperative for a 'border poll' to be held," Mr. McGuinness, who leads the pro-unification Sinn Fein party, told national Irish broadcaster RTE. A border poll would be a vote to decide whether to reunify UK's Northern Ireland with Ireland.

According to a peace agreement between Northern Ireland and Ireland, Britain's secretary of state for Northern Ireland is required to order a vote for referendum if it seems popular opinions wants reunification.

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Theresa Villiers, who holds that position, responded Friday afternoon saying that there will not be a vote on the reunification of Ireland. She added that the EU decision does not call for border changes.

"With common sense between us, the UK and Ireland can maintain a border which is just as open after a Brexit vote as it has been for many years," said Ms. Villiers, who is "delighted" with the Brexit result, according to a BBC report.

Prior to Villiers' statement, Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said that the Brexit could necessitate reintroducing a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the United Kingdom's only land frontier with the EU. That border was demilitarized in a 1998 peace agreement, after decades of conflict in "The Troubles" over Northern Ireland's membership in the United Kingdom. 

"We now have a situation where Brexit has become a further cost of partition," Declan Kearney, Sinn Fein's national chairman and a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, said in a statement.

Leaders on both sides of the Irish border are also worrying about the economic fallout, as the pound has already plummeted and triggered global ramifications and market instability. 

"Ireland is right to be worried and apprehensive. As our single most important trading partner, Britain's decision leaves us vulnerable to negative currency fluctuations," Dublin Member of European Parliament Brian Hayes said in the early hours, according to the Irish Times.

This apprehension was echoed by McGuinness, Northern Ireland's deputy leader, who said: "The implications for all of us on the island of Ireland are absolutely massive. This could have very profound implications for our economy."

Material from Reuters was used in this report.


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