Sturgeon and May set for talks over Westminster Brexit 'power grab'

14 March 2018, 08:41

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland's First Minister has warned the stalemate between Westminster and her government over what she has branded a Brexit "power grab" is not likely to be resolved during today's talks with Theresa May.

The Prime Minister will host discussions at Downing Street with both Nicola Sturgeon and the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones.

The talks are the latest bid to end the dispute which has developed with the devolved governments over the UK Government's flagship EU Withdrawal Bill.

The legislation, which transposes EU law into UK law following Brexit, has been branded a "power grab" by the first ministers of both Scotland and Wales.

While a lack of agreement from Edinburgh and Cardiff would not prevent the key legislation from passing, forcing the Bill through without their consent could spark a constitutional crisis within the UK.

The row centres on where devolved powers currently held by Brussels will be exercised once the UK quits the EU - with the Prime Minister stressing ahead of the talks that the "vast majority of powers returning from the EU" will go to Edinburgh and Cardiff.

However, the UK Government argues some powers must come first to Westminster so common frameworks can be established across the UK.

Ms Sturgeon stated: "We are not expecting an agreement to be reached on the Withdrawal Bill today as there are no new proposals from the UK Government on the table.

"The amendments currently proposed by the UK Government do not have the agreement of either the Scottish or Welsh governments as they do not respect devolution.

"No First Minister would agree to plans that would enable the UK Government to take control of currently devolved powers without Holyrood's consent - and without guaranteeing that the Scottish Parliament would have a role in future legislation in any area where these powers were used.

"The list published by the UK Government last week only succeeded in underlining the threatened power grab, as it included key powers devolved to Scotland, including agricultural support, fisheries management, state aid and public procurement."

She continued: "We are also concerned that unlike the rest of the EU Withdrawal Bill, the proposals on devolution are not time-limited which means the UK Government could hold this power of veto over devolved powers indefinitely."

While Ms Sturgeon said she was "determined" to continue talks in a bid to reach a deal, she also made clear: "It is time for the UK Government to show respect for devolution and accept that no changes can be made to Scotland's devolved powers without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

"Today is an opportunity for the UK Government to demonstrate that it is genuinely committed to acting in the interests of the people of Scotland and to respect the democratically endorsed devolved settlement."

Mrs May said: "At this important meeting with the devolved administrations today, I will be making clear my commitment to a deal that brings our country together, protects the security and prosperity of all our communities and business sectors, and reinforces our Union of nations.

"We will discuss the EU negotiations and EU Withdrawal Bill, and how the UK Government has tabled an amendment that will ensure the vast majority of powers returning from the EU that cross over with devolved competencies will transfer directly to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

"I am determined to secure a settlement that delivers an unprecedented democratic dividend for the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while protecting and preserving the precious Union that is at the heart of our past, present and future success."