House of Lords committee says Scotland could reach "differentiated" Brexit deal
But the committee did not back calls from the Scottish Government for Scotland to retain single market access if the UK withdraws from the arrangement
EU flags - credit: Christian Lutz/AP/Press Association Images
There is a “strong case” for Scotland to reach a different arrangement with the EU to the rest of the UK if the Brexit deal does not meet the country’s needs, according to a new report from the House of Lords EU Committee.
The report found that any Brexit deal should accommodate Scotland's particular needs, including its reliance upon EU migration to meet both labour market and demographic needs, opening the possibility of Scotland building a differentiated immigration policy after the UK leaves the EU.
But the committee did not back calls from the Scottish Government for Scotland to retain single market access if the UK withdraws from the arrangement, with Lords describing the proposal as “politically impracticable, legally highly complex and economically potentially disruptive to the functioning of the UK single market”.
The report says: "We call on the UK government, in its forthcoming Immigration Bill, to look for opportunities to enhance the role of the devolved institutions in managing EU migration in ways that meet their specific needs.
"Local and regional economic and demographic needs, rather than central targets, should drive decision-making".
But while the report ruled out Scotland retaining single market access if the rest of the UK does not, it concluded that maintaining the integrity of the UK single market “does not preclude differentiated arrangements for Scotland in some areas, and nor does it justify excluding the Scottish government from the Brexit process”.
The Committee also warned the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland will require unique, 'flexible and imaginative solutions'.
Warning that Brexit represents a potential source of instability within the UK, Lords called on the UK Government to show greater respect for the views of devolved administrations.
The report says: “In particular, we urge the Government to raise its game in making the Joint Ministerial Committee (European Negotiations) more effective. It needs to have more regular meetings and a structured work programme; it should be authorised to agree common positions on matters affecting devolved competences; and its meetings should be synchronised with the cycle of negotiations in Brussels, allowing the devolved governments to influence negotiations, and the UK Government to report back regularly on progress. This in turn needs to be complemented by enhanced inter-parliamentary liaison between Westminster and the devolved legislatures.
“Brexit will be a major constitutional change for the United Kingdom, and thus potentially a source of instability. Any attempt to use Brexit to make a power-grab, either to ‘re-reserve’ powers previously devolved, or to claim more devolved powers, could compound such instability: this is not the time to embark on controversial amendments to the devolution settlements. We therefore believe that the existing statutory balance of competences between the UK Parliament and the devolved legislatures should as far as possible be unchanged.”
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