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Brexit bill amendments tabled amid deadlock over devolved powers

The Scottish and Welsh Governments have accused the UK Government of a ‘power grab’ and introduced their own legislation.

UK ministers will table amendments to their Brexit bill amid continuing opposition from the Scottish and Welsh Governments in a dispute over devolved powers.

Whitehall, Holyrood and Cardiff Bay are in deadlock over how to handle the repatriation of responsibilities from Brussels following Brexit.

The UK Government has named 24 devolved policy areas where it wishes to retain power temporarily in the wake of Britain’s exit from the bloc.

These include areas such as agriculture, fisheries, food labelling and public procurement.

The Scottish and Welsh Governments have accused the UK Government of a “power grab” and introduced their own legislation.

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said the UK Government will table amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill on Monday.

Analysis released by that administration states there are 153 areas where EU laws intersect with devolved competence.

The UK Government insists that the “vast majority” of those EU powers returning from Brussels will be controlled by Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast from day one of Brexit, including in areas such as carbon capture, water quality and energy efficiency.

Mr Lidington said: “The amendments being tabled today will allow Parliament, businesses and consumers to better understand how we are intending to manage the transfer of powers from Brussels to the devolved administrations.

“Our amendments respect and strengthen the devolution settlements across the UK but still allow the UK Government to protect the vitally important UK common market, providing much-needed certainty and no new barriers to doing business.

“Parliament will now be able to consider the proposal that we have been discussing for some time with the devolved governments, while we continue to hold constructive discussions in the hope of finding an agreed way forward.”

Both the Scottish and Welsh Governments have brought forward their own legislation as a “backstop” to ensure the continuity of EU law in devolved areas in the event that agreement is not reached over the UK’s withdrawal bill.

The Scottish Conservatives said they have submitted 147 amendments to what it called the Scottish Government’s “farcical” Continuity Bill.

Responding to the move at Westminster, Scotland’s Brexit Minister Michael Russell said: “Let me make it crystal clear – neither the Welsh or the Scottish Governments have agreed to the amendment that the UK Government is about to table.”

He said: “This move from the UK Government, in the face of opposition from both the Scottish and Welsh Governments, confirms the biggest power grab attempt on devolution since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

“The UK Government is using Brexit to unilaterally rewrite the devolution settlement that the people of Scotland voted for so decisively in 1997.

“Their plans would mean Westminster taking control of key devolved powers in the areas of farming, fishing and the environment. But we now know that any other sector could be at risk too if the UK Government decides it wants those powers as well.”

Mr Russell continued: “We continue to want an agreed solution and we and the Welsh Government have already tabled amendments that would both protect devolution and allow common frameworks to be put in place.
“In the meantime we will press ahead with our EU Continuity Bill, which received overwhelming backing across the Scottish Parliament last week.”

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