UK ministers set to amend Brexit bill framework even without Scots and Welsh backing

Written by Nicholas Mairs and Tom Freeman on 8 March 2018 in News

Accusations of a power grab have been"difficult to counter" admits UK Government in leaked memo

Nicola Sturgeon at Downing St - PA

Ministers are set to amend rules over which powers should be devolved to the Scottish and Welsh governments after Brexit - even if the proposals are not backed by the devolved administrations, it has emerged.

A letter circulated among senior ministers, including Theresa May, says the UK Government will publish its so-called 'common frameworks analysis', which sets out which powers being returned from Brussels should work on a UK-wide basis after Britain quits the EU.

The changes risk sparking further tensions between the administrations over the controversial Clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill, which proposes that powers over the likes of agriculture and the environment should initially return to Westminster.

That has led to accusations by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that the Government is planning a "power grab" from Holyrood.

According to the letter, which was leaked to the BBC, the Government would initially “seek to publish this document with the devolved administrations’ support”, but adds that they would still do so “even if this support is not forthcoming”.

It also appeared to admit that ministers had found it difficult to counter claims of a power grab.

"The Westminster power grab narrative deployed by the Scottish and Welsh Government... has been difficult to counter," it said.

A UK government source added that ministers could press ahead with changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill as soon as next week.

Responding to the leak, Nicola Sturgeon said the Government had struggled to reject the power grab claims "because they are true".

Yesterday the Scottish Parliament agreed to proceed with emergency legislation to enshrine current EU laws in Scots law after Brexit.

UK ministers are meeting with their Scots and Welsh counterparts at a joint ministerial committee meeting today in yet another bid to end the row.

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