‘Presumption of devolution’ as laws return from the EU

Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May
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There will be a “presumption of devolution” with significant new powers for Scotland, the UK government has indicated as it begins the process of transferring EU law from Brussels ahead of Brexit.

Theresa May said the government would “consult extensively” on which additional powers would be passed to devolved administrations as they return from the EU.

Her Brexit letter to the EU said “it is the expectation of the government that the outcome of this process will be a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved administration”.

Taking the first step today, the UK Government will publish a white paper on a Great Repeal Bill that will transfer thousands of EU rules into domestic statute. Westminster and devolved parliaments will be given temporary powers to “correct” up to 1,000 regulations so that they function properly after Brexit.

A UK government source said there would be a “presumption of devolution” as that process moves forward. It comes amid a growing row between Downing Street and devolved administrations over who will take control of EU responsibilities in devolved areas like agriculture and fisheries.

Nicola Sturgeon last night said the Prime Minister “should be judged not on her words but on her actions” on more devolution, and called the triggering of Article 50 a “leap in the dark”.

“Scotland voted decisively to remain part of Europe, but the UK government only formally responded with a dismissal of our compromise proposals to keep Scotland in the Single Market at the same time as the Article 50 letter was sent,” Ms Sturgeon said.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement in the House of Commons, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson accused the Prime Minister of having “broken her word” by triggering Article 50 without reaching an agreement with devolved administrations on Brexit.

“On this issue, it is not a United Kingdom, and the Prime Minster needs to respect – respect – the differences across the nations of the United Kingdom. If she does not… she will make Scottish independence inevitable.”

Ahead of the Great Repeal Bill white paper, Brexit Secretary David Davis said: “At the heart of the referendum decision was sovereignty. A strong, independent country needs control of its own laws. That process starts now.