UK Government offers deal ahead of Brexit bill talks

22 February 2018, 06:30


The UK Government has offered to change key Brexit legislation to ensure the "vast majority" of devolved powers returning from Brussels go straight to the devolved administrations.

The Scottish and Welsh administrations have refused to recommend granting legislative consent for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill as it stands claiming it is a Westminster "power grab" which puts devolution at risk.

The concerns centre on clause 11 which returns devolved powers from the EU to Westminster in the first instance, which UK ministers claim is necessary to create UK-wide common frameworks.

Now the UK Government has put forward changes which it said in a statement means "the vast majority of powers will automatically flow from the EU to the devolved administrations".

Scottish Brexit Minister Mike Russell said the Scottish Government wants "further progress on safeguarding devolution" and will not change its position unless the bill stipulates devolved powers can only be changed with Scottish Parliament agreement.

He stressed that frameworks must be agreed, not imposed.

UK Brexit Secretary David Davis will meet senior figures from the devolved administrations in London on Thursday to discuss the deal.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, chairman Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said: "The proposal that we have put on the table is a considerable offer that I hope the devolved administrations will engage with constructively.

"We have worked closely with the devolved administrations to find a way forward that respects the role of the devolved governments and ensures we are able to protect our vital UK internal market, worth around four times as much to Scotland as the EU's.

"All sides agree certain areas will require common frameworks - and it's therefore imperative that we don't make life more difficult for businesses and families across the UK as we manage the process of bringing new powers back from the EU.

"We have demonstrated a willingness to listen and adapt our approach  in order to find an agreed way forward, and we encourage others to do likewise so we can make good progress."

Scottish Brexit Minister Mike Russell said: "With regard to the EU Withdrawal Bill, I will be making it abundantly clear that we need to see further progress on safeguarding devolution.

"We are not opposed to UK-wide frameworks, when they are in Scotland's interest, but devolved powers can only be changed with the agreement of the Scottish Parliament.

"Failing that commitment from the UK Government, we will be unable to recommend consent to this legislation."

He said he would emphasise the importance of the customs union and single market to Scotland, adding: "We recently published analysis that clearly sets out the damaging impact a hard Brexit will have on jobs, investment and the economy in Scotland - a loss equivalent to £2,300 per year for each person in Scotland.

"This is an economic disaster we must avoid."