Scottish Parliament refuses consent to EU Withdrawal Bill

Written by Tom Freeman on 15 May 2018 in News

Labour and Lib Dems join SNP and Greens to reject UK Brexit bill

Scottish Parliament - Anita Gould

MSPs have refused consent for the UK Government’s legislation to repatriate powers from Brussels, accusing it of “overriding the Scottish Parliament”.

Scottish Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens backed the Scottish Government position to reject the Brexit bill, while the Scottish Conservatives voted against.

The motion was passed 93 votes to 30.

The Welsh Assembly, however, has voted to give the bill its consent.

Scotland’s Brexit minister Michael Russell called the UK Government’s plans to withhold control over 24 areas for seven years “the worst challenge to devolution since 1999”.

The UK government has insisted the "vast majority" of the 158 areas of policy currently decided in Brussels will go directly to the Scottish and Welsh parliaments after Brexit, but UK-wide frameworks are needed in areas such as agriculture, fisheries, food labelling and public procurement.

While the Scottish Government agrees in the need for the UK-wide frameworks, it has described the retention of overall control of these areas as a ‘power grab’.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “This is not a power grab, it is a power transfer, a power transfer to the Scottish Parliament.”

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh confirmed he will write to UK ministers and the other devolved administrations to notify them that the Scottish parliament has refused its consent.

Russell said the decision of Holyrood to withhold consent means the withdrawal bill must now be adjusted to respect the vote.

“The Scottish Parliament has now said overwhelmingly that this attempt to undermine devolution is unacceptable,” he said.

“The UK Government cannot ignore the reality of devolution or try to drown out what this Parliament says. They cannot pretend that no motion has been passed.”

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said: "Without the removal of the clause formerly known as 11, we enable Theresa May's government to begin dismantling the very framework upon which this Scottish Parliament was reconvened."

Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said: “A deal is there to be done on Brexit. It is deeply regrettable that the SNP has refused to take it.

“Scottish Labour's position simply doesn't make sense; in Wales, the Labour administration has today backed this deal yet, here in Scotland, Richard Leonard is content to do the SNP's bidding.

“As for the Lib Dems, they admitted today that they weren't even voting on the Brexit withdrawal deal, but because they don't back the EU referendum result.

“It's patently obvious that Nicola Sturgeon wants a political crisis to provide cover for her independence drive.

Scottish Labour’s Brexit spokesperson Neil Findlay MSP said: “As the party that delivered devolution Labour will always seek to defend and strengthen it – and that is why we could not vote to give consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill at this time. 

“The Tories shambolic handling of this key area for Scotland is pushing the case towards the Supreme Court.

“The people of Scotland want this mess fixed and even after this vote there is still time to do that.

“It is welcome that both the UK and Scottish Government have agreed to cross-party talks to resolve this deadlock and this must begin urgently.

“Labour stands ready to work with other parties to find a solution.”

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