Mike Russell frustrated by latest EU withdrawal bill talks

2 February 2018, 05:39


Scotland's Brexit minister has described the latest meeting with the UK Government as "very frustrating".

Mike Russell and Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney held talks on Thursday night with David Lidington, Theresa May's defacto deputy, and Scottish Secretary David Mundell.

But after the meeting in Edinburgh, Mr Russell said the Scottish Government could not recommend legislative consent for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

He described the event as "a useful opportunity" to impress the Scottish Parliament's unanimous view the bill is incompatible with devolution.

But he added that both he and Mr Swinney found the discussion "very frustrating".

Mr Russell said: "The UK Government has rejected Scottish and Welsh Government amendments that would protect devolution but, despite its previous commitment, has failed to bring forward any solution of its own.

"Despite many meetings, once again the UK ministers arrived and left without putting words on the table to allow for a meaningful discussion.

"So we are still in the position that the Scottish Government cannot and will not recommend that the bill should receive legislative consent."

The discussions, which were held at the Scottish Parliament, came with the Conservative government and devolved administrations in a stand-off over the Brexit Bill, as both Edinburgh and Cardiff are refusing to give their consent unless changes are made.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Russell made clear the Scottish Government was looking for action from Westminster and said the time for talking was well and truly over.

The devolved administrations have branded clause 11 of the legislation a "power grab" as it transfers devolved EU powers to Westminster in the first instance.

The Conservatives, however, insist this is necessary to set up UK-wide frameworks before further devolution can take place.

Mr Lidington was also in Wales for talks with Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales.

After the meeting in Edinburgh, he said: "We have had a useful discussion.

"There are issues that still need to be resolved on the Withdrawal Bill but I remain optimistic that we can find a way forward.

"There are areas that we agree on. We both want all parts of the UK to be ready for the day that we leave the EU.

"We need to protect the benefits of the UK internal market."

Mr Lidington added: "We have to make sure that there are no new barriers to living and doing business for people in Scotland and other parts of the UK on the day we leave the EU.

"I am determined that we will agree amendments to the legislation that achieve this while also addressing the concerns of the devolved administrations.

"The Scottish Parliament will have increased powers at the end of this process."