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Mundell ‘positive’ about Brexit Bill deal with Holyrood

The Scottish Secretary spoke after talks in London aimed at resolving the EU Withdrawal Bill dispute between Edinburgh and London.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell has said he is “positive” a deal can be done to break the deadlock between Holyrood and Westminster over crucial legislation.

The Conservative cabinet member spoke out after the latest talks between the UK Government and the devolved administrations on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill broke up without agreement

The Scottish and Welsh administrations have consistently refused to recommend granting legislative consent for the Bill as it stands, claiming it is a Westminster “power grab” which puts devolution at risk.

Scottish Brexit Minister Mike Russell said: “The clock is ticking on Scotland’s future as we draw ever closer to the UK leaving the EU while there is continuing uncertainty on fundamental and crucial issues.”

But with the UK Government now having put forward the “draft of an amendment” to the controversial clause 11, Mr Mundell said he thought a deal could be done.

Speaking to reporters in London, the Scottish Secretary said: “We’re making progress.

“We’re not there yet, these are complex negotiations but I think the UK Government has demonstrated by bringing forward the draft of amendment that we are demonstrating flexibility, we are addressing the concerns that both the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament have raised.”

While he said “inevitably there is a timescale” for agreement to be reached, Mr Mundell added previous discussions with Holyrood ministers “went to the wire” before a deal.

The Scottish Secretary said: “What’s very clear from today’s discussions is that both parties want to reach agreement, the devolved administrations and the UK Government want to reach agreement. We know now what we need to do and the areas we need to further discuss to get to that agreement.

“So I remain positive we will get an outcome, we can agree an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, we can agree how to take forward the important frameworks that will be needed once we leave the EU, ensuring not just that we respect the devolution settlement, which is vitally important, but also that we allow the UK to continue to be able to function as the single market it is.”

What happens to devolved powers must be a matter for Holyrood and the UK Government must recognise that Mike Russell, Scottish Brexit Minister

Clause 11 of the Bill returns devolved powers from the EU to Westminster in the first instance, which UK ministers claim is necessary to create UK-wide common frameworks.

The amendment put forward by the UK would mean the “vast majority” of devolved powers powers would automatically return to Edinburgh and Cardiff.

But Scottish Government ministers however have repeatedly refused to consent to any legislation which would reduce devolved powers at Holyrood.

Mr Russell said: “With regard to the EU Withdrawal Bill, the absolutely fundamental point is that the devolution settlement and the powers of the Scottish Parliament cannot be changed unilaterally by the UK Government. What happens to devolved powers must be a matter for Holyrood and the UK Government must recognise that.

“Progress is being made and we will continue to talk. I will continue to fight for the best deal for Scotland.”

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