Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Scottish parliament refuses consent for Britain's European Union withdrawal bill

Scotland’s Sturgeon says UK faces ‘catastrophic’ no-deal Brexit scenario Russell Cheyne Reuters
Ellis Copeland | 16 May, 2018, 02:51

Devolved administrations must give their consent for Westminster to legislate in areas they would normally do so. The prime minister briefed Conservative backbenchers on Monday about the two options her ministers are considering: a customs partnership which see Britain collecting tariffs on behalf of the EU; and a combination of technological and administrative measures created to diminish friction on a UK-EU customs border.

But Scottish Brexit minister Michael Russell said parliament needed "to unite to protect the powers of devolution".

If no deal between Edinburgh and London can be reached, Westminster has the option of introducing the Withdrawal Bill against the wishes of the Scottish Parliament. However, the United Kingdom maintains that it will hold consultations with the Scottish government on any changes in these domains, whereas Scotland demands to be given veto power to block any decision it disagrees with.

Although the vote has no direct consequences and is rather symbolic, since the Scottish parliament does not have a veto right, it can create difficulties for the British government.

Mr Russell added: "The Parliament will vote to reject legislative consent for the Withdrawal Bill - not just the Scottish National Party in government, I think all the parties save the Conservatives will actually vote for that". Welsh finance secretary Mark Drakeford said "this is a deal we can work with which has required compromise on both sides", and the Welsh Assembly is expected to approve the agreement today.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has been calling for cross party talks to resolve the dispute.

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'The blame for that lies entirely with the SNP.

MSPs voted against the legislation by 93 votes to 30, with the Scottish Nationalists backed by Liberal Democrats and Labour. With First Minister Nicola Sturgeon due to consider the issue of a possible second independence referendum this autumn, Westminster been seen as "ignoring" Holyrood could impact on her thinking. "It's not in Scotland's interests that the SNP prefers picking fights to making a deal".

Labour's Neil Findlay said there was still time to fix the bill.

The Scottish vote came as Ms May's cabinet subcommittee on Brexit met amid enduring differences over Britain's customs relationship with the European Union after Brexit. He said the government would press ahead with the Bill but suggested it would be open to amending it to reflect Scottish concerns.

Scotland's SNP government wants such powers to be under Scottish control, while the Conservative British government argues they should reside in London, at least initially. But, when campaigner Gina Miller challenged the Government over the triggering of Article 50 in the UK Supreme Court, it concluded this was not a rule which could be enforced by the courts, leaving the UK Government able to pass the EU Withdrawal Bill without the consent of Holyrood.

"There will be an opportunity for further debate and discussion", Mundell told BBC News.

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