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UK Government ‘cancels Brexit talks with Scotland and Wales’

Scotland’s External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop told MSPs the discussions, which were due to take place on Thursday, will no longer go ahead.

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Nicola Sturgeon (right) is due to meet the PM in the ‘coming days’ – despite the UK Government cancelling a JMC meeting. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Nicola Sturgeon (right) is due to meet the PM in the ‘coming days’ – despite the UK Government cancelling a JMC meeting. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Nicola Sturgeon (right) is due to meet the PM in the ‘coming days’ – despite the UK Government cancelling a JMC meeting. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The UK Government has cancelled talks with senior politicians from Scotland and Wales over Brexit, MSPs have been told.

Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government’s External Affairs Secretary, said a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee due to be held on Thursday will no longer take place.

She said the move “flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s rhetoric” after Theresa May had promised  an “enhanced role” for the devolved governments in Brexit negotiations.

Mrs May told the Commons on Monday that while it was the job of her administration to “negotiate for the whole of the UK”, ministers were “committed to giving the devolved administrations an enhanced role in the next phase, respecting their competence and vital interest in these negotiations”.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted at the time she was “very sceptical” about the commitment.

Ms Hyslop told MSPs in Holyrood on Tuesday: “Given the Prime Minister’s approach to engagement with the Scottish Government to date, her offer of an enhanced role for devolved administrations lacks credibility.”

She added: “This morning, the UK Government cancelled a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee that deals with EU negotiations, which was due to take place on Thursday – a decision which flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s rhetoric.”

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External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop (Jane Barlow/PA)

External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop (Jane Barlow/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop (Jane Barlow/PA)

A UK Government spokesman confirmed Thursday’s meeting in Cardiff would not go ahead due to diary pressures on the part of Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington.

He said: “We place the utmost importance on engaging with the devolved administrations ahead of the UK leaving the European Union and as you would expect, there are regular and detailed discussions at all levels.

“The Prime Minister will meet with the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales later this week.”

Bruce Crawford, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Constitution Committee, questioned Ms Hyslop on “the best way forward of resolving the current impasse” over Brexit, after Mrs May’s proposed withdrawal deal was defeated by a record majority in the House of Commons.

Ms Hyslop backed a second European referendum to try to achieve this – something the PM has ruled out.

The External Affairs Secretary said: “It is important there is some consensus on the way forward but in the absence of consensus in parliament the best resolution would be a second EU referendum.”

She criticised Mrs May for failing to consider seeking an extension to the Article 50 negotiation deadline, and for refusing to rule out a no deal Brexit.

Ms Hyslop said: “The Scottish Government will continue to do everything we can to protect Scotland’s interests and the First Minister is due to meet the Prime Minister in the coming days.

“The Prime Minister should now focus on securing an extension to article 50, during which time arrangements can be made for a second referendum which includes the option to remain within the EU.”

PA