PM maintains Brexit ‘is no power grab’ amid devolution discussions
A year after triggering Article 50 the Prime Minister called on different parts of the UK to ‘come together’ as the country prepares to leave the EU.
Theresa May has rejected claims Brexit will result in a Westminster power grab insisting it will mean more powers going to the devolved government in Edinburgh.
With one year to go until Britain formally departs from the EU, the Prime Minister carried out a whistle-stop tour of the different parts of the United Kingdom, starting in Scotland.
The Scottish and Welsh governments have both repeatedly claimed the UK Government’s Brexit proposals are a Westminster “power grab”, with powers returning from Brussels going to London instead of Edinburgh or Cardiff.
But as she restated her determination for the UK to leave, Mrs May rejected this.
She said: “Let’s be clear, there is no power grab, we are not taking back any of the powers that are currently devolved to the Scottish Government, indeed the Scottish Government will be receiving more powers as a result of us leaving the European Union.
“What we’re discussing with the Scottish Government is how we can do that and ensure that we still maintain the ability for Scottish farmers, for Scottish businesses, to trade freely across the whole of the United Kingdom, just as we are negotiating the agreement to ensure they can continue to trade freely with the rest of the European Union.”
Speaking during a visit to Alex Begg weavers in Ayr, which produces luxury cashmere scarfs and accessories, the Prime Minister said: “We will be leaving the European Union on March 29 2019.”
However talks with Scotland and Wales over the crucial EU Withdrawal Bill are deadlocked, with SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford claiming Mrs May herself is the “block” preventing an agreement.
Asked about this, the PM maintained her government was having “good discussions” with SNP ministers on the issue, adding: “We have put forward proposals as to how this issue can be resolved.”
She continued: “We’re clear that when powers come back to the United Kingdom, when we leave the European Union more powers will be devolved to the Scottish Government, but we want to ensure as we do that that people, businesses here in Scotland are able to continue to trade freely across the whole of the United Kingdom today, that’s what we’re talking to the Scottish Government about.
“There’s a whole list of something like 150 powers, the vast majority of them are actually powers that are going to be directly devolved to the Scottish Government.
“But we want to ensure that in simple things like selling food across the whole of the United Kingdom, that there aren’t any barriers put up to doing that as freely it can happen today.
“What we want to do is ensure that we devolve as we will more powers to Scotland but at the same time we maintain that internal market with the United Kingdom.”
Whilst @GOVUK Ministers spin about “tremendous opportunities” here is the #Brexit reality as it is being experienced across the UK ...Chronic uncertainty defines the Brexit process, new academic report reveals – UK in a changing Europe... https://t.co/mBFYCRv4EI— Michael Russell (@Feorlean) March 29, 2018
The Conservative leader also hit back at claims from the Scottish Government and others that Brexit would damage the economy, saying there are “real opportunities for the United Kingdom when we leave the European Union”.
Mrs May said: “We are starting now the negotiations on what our trade arrangements, and arrangements overall in our economic partnership will be with the EU 27 once we leave.
“I believe we can negotiate a good agreement which is tariff free and as frictionless trade as possible, so we maintain those markets in the EU, but also that we open up markets around the rest of the world.
“Brexit provides us with opportunities, I want to see us coming together, the four nations across the United Kingdom we have a very a strong union, that is in our interests and it is in our interest to come together and really seize these opportunities for the future.”
Scottish Brexit Minister Mike Russell said: “Scotland voted by a margin of 24 points to remain in the EU but the response of the UK Government has been to seek to impose a disastrous hard Brexit and mount a power grab on the Scottish Parliament.
“We have been clear that we are not opposed to UK-wide arrangements in devolved areas when these are in Scotland’s interests but this must only happen with the agreement of the Scottish Parliament.
“The Scottish Government could never recommend consent to a bill that allows the UK Government to take unilateral control of devolved powers and we are continuing to press that case with UK ministers so that agreement can be reached.
“The Scottish Parliament voted overwhelmingly for an EU Continuity Bill which would protect devolution, if there is no agreement with the UK Government, and it’s high time the views of the people of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament were respected.”