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- First Secretary of State Damian Green to meet with Scottish ministers on Wednesday to discuss Brexit. Ministers will repeat Nicola Sturgeon’s warning that Scotland will not give consent to the historic Brexit repeal Bill unless Theresa May makes major concessions. Scotland wants to be given full powers over a range of policies including fishing, farming, and police. But the Tory Party has refused to guarantee these powers.
LONDON – The Scottish government will today reiterate its threat to block the EU repeal Bill when ministers north of the border meet with Theresa May’s right-hand man Damian Green to discuss Brexit.
First Secretary of State Green is due to meet with Scotland’s Brexit Minister Mike Russell and Deputy First Minister John Swinney to discuss what powers will be devolved to Scotland after Britain has left the European Union.
The SNP politicians are expected to tell Green that Scotland demands full control over fisheries, farming, justice, policing, and environmental law after Brexit, according to The Guardian. These areas are currently controlled or partly controlled by the EU.
Russell and Swinney, representing the Scottish government led by Nicola Sturgeon, will repeat the Scottish administration’s threat to withhold consent for the European Union (withdrawal) Bill – which is scheduled to be put to UK Parliament next month – unless its demands are met.
The Bill, first published in July, will take all EU law currently affecting Britain and transpose it into domestic law by repealing the European Communities Act (1972).
Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones in July accused the UK government of a “naked power grab” and said they could not support the historic Brexit legislation unless May is willing to make some major revisions. The pair believes that the Conservative government will use the Bill as a means of seizing control of powers that they believe ought to be devolved to the Scottish and Welsh administrations.
In the statement last month, Sturgeon and Jones said:
“We have repeatedly tried to engage with the UK government on these matters and have put forward constructive proposals about how we can deliver an outcome which will protect the interests of all the nations in the UK, safeguard our economies and respect devolution.
“Regrettably, the Bill does not do this. Instead, it is a naked power grab, an attack on the founding principles of devolution and could destabilise our economies.”
In a statement before the meeting, carried by The Guardian, Russell renewed this threat. He said: “The Bill – as it currently stands – means that Westminster would take exclusive control over significant areas of devolved policy, such as support for Scotland’s farmers and food producers and many aspects of environmental protection and control of our seas.
“We know that the UK government has its eye on more than 100 policy areas. That is a direct threat to the devolution settlement which the people of Scotland overwhelmingly voted for in 1997.”
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The UK government has pledged to seek the support of Scotland and Wales before pressing ahead with the Bill via a “legislative consent motion.” These motions relate to the convention that devolved administrations must give consent to legislation on matters that they would ordinarily have sovereignty over, under the so-called “Sewel Convention.”
Theresa May would struggle to endure Scottish revolt
This is just a convention and has no legal force. The UK Parliament in Westminster has legislative supremacy over all of the devolved administrations. If the Scottish and Welsh administrations refuse to sign any legislative consent motions relating to Brexit, May’s Conservative government can simply ignore it and push ahead anyway.
However, any refusal to consent will have political implications that a minority government under a weakened May would likely struggle to endure. As Catherine Barnard, professor of European law at the University of Cambridge told the Guardian earlier this summer: “The legal position is one thing, and the political position is quite another, particularly with a weakened prime minister.”
With Tory rebellions on aspects of the Bill also highly likely, there is a possibility that it will be defeated, or at the very least heavily amended. Such an outcome would throw into doubt May’s ability to pass the mountain of other Brexit-related legislation she has scheduled for this Parliament.
The Bill is already highly contentious as May is likely to use a range of archaic statutory instruments – commonly dubbed Henry VIII powers – to amend swathes of legislation without any parliamentary scrutiny.
A Lords Constitution Committee warned earlier this year the Great Repeal Bill will “involve a massive transfer of legislative competence from Parliament to government.” They added that “this raises constitutional concerns of a fundamental nature, concerning as it does the appropriate balance of power between the legislature and executive.”