Belfast Telegraph

MPs call for UK governments to pull together to tackle Brexit

Closer links between the governments in Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont are needed to handle the Brexit process, a Commons committee has said.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee warned that the UK Government could not treat the devolved administrations as an "afterthought".

The committee recommended turning meetings between the Prime Minister and the heads of government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland into full-scale summits, rotating among the four countries.

The cross-party committee said: " The UK's exit from the European Union will require not just diplomacy and effective intergovernmental relations at the EU level but also within the UK.

"It offers both risk and a fresh opportunity, and, therefore, an incentive, to develop more effective intergovernmental relations in the UK."

The existing Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) format for meetings between the administrations " is not, as it is currently organised, set up to cope with this increasingly significant responsibility".

The committee recommended evolving the JMC meetings of the four leaders into an annual summit, with the host country responsible for setting the agenda for the talks.

Theresa May and Scotland's First Minister clashed at the most recent Downing St JMC, which was dominated by the Brexit issue.

Nicola Sturgeon branded a warning from Number 10 that the devolved administrations must not try to undermine the UK's negotiating position as "nonsense" as she called the talks "deeply frustrating".

In their report the MPs said talks with the devolved administrations must be "meaningful" and welcomed the agreement of a new ministerial-level committee for talks on Brexit.

"The onus for facilitating constructive dialogue between the devolved administrations, while negotiating the process of leaving the EU, is on the UK Government," the report added.

"It is, therefore, vital that the UK Government's commitment to engage with the devolved administrations is meaningful and is not simply a tool to allay the concerns of the Scottish and Welsh Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive."

Committee chairman Bernard Jenkin said: " The time pressure of negotiating our withdrawal from the EU now forces the machinery of intergovernmental relations in the UK to be imbued with a sense of purpose.

"We cannot go on with the notion that the devolved administrations are treated as an afterthought by Whitehall, particularly as all the devolved administrations are run by different political parties."

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