UK Brexit bill 'could remove legislative competency of Scottish Parliament', warns Law Society of Scotland
Brexit - PA
The UK Government's EU withdrawal bill could remove the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament and erode human rights, a leading legal professional body has warned.
The bill, which is being debated today at Westminster, will end the supremacy of EU law in the UK and convert all existing EU laws into domestic ones.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell has promised a "powers bonanza" for the Scottish Parliament, but the Scottish and Welsh Governments have called the proposals a "power grab" by UK Ministers.
In a briefing note the Law Society of Scotland said the draft legislation is "complex, difficult to interpret and lacking in clarity".
President Graham Matthews said MPs will have a difficult task addressing the issues in a tight timescale.
“We believe there needs to be a whole of governance approach to the UK withdrawal from the EU, which takes into account the devolved administrations and other key organisations and representative groups to ensure this complex bill works properly," he said.
"The effect of the bill would be to remove the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament in relation to any matter in retained EU law. This would be the case even if it related to areas of law not reserved to the UK under the Scotland Act, such as agriculture or fisheries."
The Law Society also highlighted concerns about the potential erosion of people’s rights as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights will not be part of UK domestic law after withdrawal under the terms of the bill.
Matthews said: “Ensuring that people can continue to exercise their rights once EU law is incorporated into domestic UK law is vital. We have particular concerns around plans to exclude the Charter of Fundamental Rights from domestic law. We believe the UK Government should reconsider this because of the possible erosion of human rights if it is removed. The Charter will only apply to EU law retained following the UK’s exit from the EU and it makes sense for it to remain so UK courts can interpret the retained EU law more easily.”
A House of Lords Committee has also warned the bill "fundamentally challenges the constitutional balance" in the UK.
Baroness Taylor of Bolton, chair of the Constitution Committee, said: “The EU (Withdrawal) Bill represents an extraordinary transfer of legal powers from Parliament to the Government, without the additional oversight we recommended. We believe this will create very real difficulties for Parliament in fulfilling its constitutional role to scrutinise this Bill.
“We acknowledge that the Government needs significant powers in order to deliver legal certainty after Brexit. However, we warned the Government that such powers must come with tougher parliamentary scrutiny mechanisms and we are disappointed that we have not only been misquoted by the Government, but that our key recommendations have been ignored.