Scottish And Welsh Governments Publish Amendments To Brexit Bill

19 September 2017, 17:35


The Scottish and Welsh governments have published amendments to key Brexit legislation, stating they are necessary to "respect the hard-won devolution settlements".

First Ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones have branded the EU withdrawal bill a "power grab".

They have said they cannot recommend giving consent to the legislation unless it is substantially changed.

However in a joint letter to the Prime Minister, they said the bill "can be made to work with, not against, devolution".

First Secretary of State Damian Green said the UK Government would listen to suggestions to improve the legislation, but added ministers "will do nothing that risks undermining the benefits of the UK".

Labour said it was now clear the bill is "unsustainable" in its current form.

The legislation, designed to transpose EU law into British law, will see EU responsibilities in devolved areas initially transferred to Westminster.

The UK Government said this will allow common frameworks to be created ahead of further devolution.

It has listed 111 and 64 policy areas returning from the EU which "intersect" with the devolution settlements of Scotland and Wales respectively.

The wide-ranging list includes agriculture, fisheries and the environment, among others.

The devolved administrations said their proposed changes would ensure the devolved policy areas come back to their parliaments on leaving the EU, rather than be returned to Westminster.

The First Ministers' letter states: "We want a European Union (Withdrawal) Bill that can be made to work with, not against, devolution.

"The current Bill will need to be substantially amended for us to be able to recommend to our respective legislatures that they give their consent to it."

The leaders warned Theresa May that they have begun "to consider the scope for preparing alternative devolved legislation to provide for continuity of law on withdrawal from the EU".

However they insisted that this is not their "preferred option".

Instead, they said their amendments, described as a "constructive contribution", would enable progress to be made.

Scotland's Brexit minister Michael Russell said: "We have made it repeatedly clear that we are not opposed in principle to UK-wide arrangements, but devolved policy areas must come back to the Scottish Parliament, where they properly lie, and then we can work towards an agreement."

Mr Green said: "The important thing now is to work our way through these lists and find the areas where we will need to maintain a common UK or GB approach, as well as those areas where it will make sense to transfer powers direct to the devolved governments."

He added: "Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast will receive more decision making powers as a result of this process. But the UK Government will not risk our internal UK market, or make life more difficult or more expensive for UK companies, workers or consumers.

"We all observe the same broad EU rules now."

Labour has already tabled amendments to the bill, including on the issue of the devolved settlements.

Shadow Scottish Secretary Lesley Laird said: "It is clear that the EU Withdrawal Bill is now unsustainable in its current form.

"Labour opposes this Tory power grab, that concentrates power in the hands of ministers and drives a coach and horses through the devolution settlement delivered by Labour in 1999."

The Scottish Conservatives have said they want to work with the Scottish Government to address its concerns, with MSPs Jackson Carlaw and Adam Tomkins due to meet ministers later this week.

Meanwhile Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Mr Russell are meeting Mr Green in London on Monday.