David Lidington to promise “a very big change” to the EU withdrawal bill

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 26 February 2018 in News

Senior figures from both the Scottish and Welsh governments have repeatedly expressed concern over Brexit handing the UK government control of devolved powers

Image credit: David Lidington

David Lidington will promise “a very big change” to the EU withdrawal bill in an attempt to resolve the deadlock between Westminster and Holyrood over the effect of Brexit on devolved powers.

Senior figures from both the Scottish and Welsh governments have repeatedly expressed concern over Brexit handing the UK government control of devolved powers, with the Welsh and Scottish first ministers claiming the withdrawal bill amounted to “an attack on the founding principles of devolution”.

Speaking in Wales today, Lidington will seek to allay fears, promising that “the vast majority of powers returning from Brussels will start off in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast – and not in Whitehall”, while outlining the need for common rules and regulations across all parts of the UK.

Pledging to introduce amendments to introduce a presumption in favour of relevant EU powers being devolved, the Cabinet Office minister will say: “Let’s be in no doubt: this would mean a very big change to the EU withdrawal bill that is before parliament and a significant step forward in these negotiations.”

Lidington will say: “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, in all parts of what we might call the United Kingdom’s common market.”

“That market is one of the fundamental expressions of the constitutional integrity that underpins our existence as a union.”

But environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham warned Scottish environmental legislation could be “directly threatened by the UK Government’s narrow approach to Brexit”.

Speaking ahead of the joint ministerial forum on EU-related rural and environment issues in Cardiff, Cunningham said: “The UK Government’s approach to Brexit represents a significant threat to Scotland’s natural environment and climate change ambitions.

“That is why it has been wholly disappointing that up until now these meetings have not focused on key environmental issues. More generally on the environment, the UK Government has given us little meaningful information on its intentions or sought to involve the devolved administrations in a substantive way in discussions about the impact of Brexit as was repeatedly promised.

“Today’s discussion on shared environmental ambitions, which I will lead with my Welsh counterpart – Lesley Griffiths AM – is a welcome, if long-overdue development, but one that needs to be considered within the context of the devolution settlement.

“With 80 per cent of our environmental legislation founded in EU law, protecting the devolution settlements from a UK Government power grab is essential if we are to continue to drive forward our ambitious work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance environmental standards and create a cleaner, greener Scotland.

“It is, therefore, essential that the UK Government respects the devolution settlements and recognises the benefits of distinct approaches to environmental policy and governance within each of the four nations of the UK, that allows for approaches to be designed in line with individual priorities and existing systems of accountability.

“I have been clear that my ambition is to make sure we continue to have the ability to maintain or enhance our own standards of environmental protection in Scotland as we continue to increase our environmental ambitions. However, to achieve this, we may need to update legislation, which is directly threatened by the UK Government’s narrow approach to Brexit.”


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