British government says Scotland, Ireland, and Wales can take back control of Brussels laws after Brexit

Theresa May's de facto deputy David Lidington.

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Theresa May’s de facto deputy David Lidington.
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REUTERS/Phil Noble

  • The government will promise a “very big change” to a key Brexit bill, offering devolved governments in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales more power.
  • Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington will propose amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill in a speech in Wales on Monday.
  • It comes amid concerns that administrations in Scotland and Wales would block any deal which returned too many powers from Brussels to Westminster.

LONDON – The government will promise a “very big change” to a key Brexit bill, offering Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland more power over laws transferred from Brussels to the UK after Brexit.

In a speech in north Wales on Monday, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington will say the “vast majority” of powers which currently lie in Brussels will be returned to the devolved administrations, rather than to Westminster.

He will propose amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill – which will “copy and paste” EU legislation into British law – to guarantee that transfer of power, and put “beyond doubt our commitment to a smooth and orderly departure from the EU, in a way that doesn’t just respect the devolution settlements, but strengthens and enhances them.”

Lidington is Prime Minister Theresa May’s de facto deputy, and part of his brief is to manage the government’s tricky relationship with devolved administrations.

The Scottish and Welsh governments have accused the Westminster-based government of mounting a “power grab” with the EU Withdrawal Bill, and have sought assurances that powers returned from Brussels in areas such as fishing and farming will be devolved directly to them when Britain leaves the EU next year.

Lidington’s speech represents an attempt at a compromise. He will say he made a “considerable” offer to devolved administrations in talks last week, but will insist that the UK government maintains control of areas including agriculture because of the need for “common UK frameworks.”

“Some powers are clearly related to the UK as a whole and will need to continue to apply in the same way across all four nations in order to protect consumers and businesses who buy and sell across the UK,” he will say.

British Parliament must seek consent from the Scottish and Welsh assemblies when it legislates on policy areas that overlap with their devolved powers. While the administrations do not have a veto on Brexit legislation, failure to compromise could damage already tense relations with them and fuel appetite for independence in Scotland.

Lidington hopes to reach an agreement with the devolved administrations this week or next week and then table amendments to the bill should he be successful.