First Ministers United Over EU

3 June 2015, 19:25

The political leaders of Scotland and Wales have pledged to work together to make a positive case for the UK to remain in the European Union.

At a meeting in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones also agreed that they would fight any attempts to repeal the Human Rights Act.

The two First Ministers were meeting for the first time since the general election and issued a joint statement setting out their position.

It read: "We believe that the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government have a positive contribution to make to the EU reform agenda, and call on the Prime Minister to take account of our views in any proposals for EU reform. We also believe that any referendum should include both EU nationals and 16 and 17-year-olds.

"Any decision to leave the EU, taken against the wishes of the people of Wales or Scotland, would be unacceptable and steps must be taken to ensure this does not happen."

On Human Rights, the statement read: "The UK Government's proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act sends out a message to the world that the UK is not a place that prioritises and respects international standards in human rights.

"It is also clear that UK Ministers have given absolutely no thought to the implications of such a move for devolved government in the UK, with human rights being embedded in the devolution settlements of Wales and Scotland and in the Good Friday Agreement.

"Both our governments are fundamentally opposed to this regressive move and will do everything we can to resist it."

It was announced in the Queen's Speech that plans set out in the Conservative general election manifesto to replace the Human Rights Act (HRA) with a British bill of rights had been put on hold for at least a year.

It came amid concerns the Government would face a protracted struggle to pass the legislation both in the Commons, where it faces significant opposition from rebel Tory MPs, and the Lords where it has no majority.

Ms Sturgeon said: "In Scotland we are proud of our stance on human rights - and I am clear that any reduction in current human rights safeguards will threaten fundamental freedoms to which everyone in a modern democratic society is entitled.

"I have already set out that we see the European Union as vital for our economy - and we will make an overwhelmingly positive case for continued membership.

"We also agreed that any decision to leave the EU, taken against the wishes of the people of Wales or Scotland, would be unacceptable and steps must be taken to ensure this does not happen.

"I am committed to working alongside Wales to fight any abolition of the Human Rights Act, protect our membership of the EU and work together to ensure that the UK Government listens to the views of the devolved administrations."

Mr Jones said: "It would be wholly wrong to change the constitutions of Wales and Scotland by repealing the Human Rights Act without the consent of the two countries.

"I am also concerned of the effect on Wales if there was a vote to leave the EU but Wales voted to stay.

"It was useful to discuss the constitutional effects on both Wales and Scotland of a potential UK exit, without support in the four nations."

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