Brexit: Constitutional crisis looms as UK Government set to ‘freeze Scottish powers’

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A constitutional crisis is looming for the UK over Brexit after it was reported that Whitehall will move “no further” on its flagship legislation which involves freezing powers coming from Brussels post-Brexit so that common UK-wide frameworks can be agreed.

However, the First Minister has directly opposed the move stating that she would “not compromise” on what she sees as the principle of devolution.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Prime Minister Theresa May disagree on how power should be distributed post-Brexit.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Prime Minister Theresa May disagree on how power should be distributed post-Brexit.

She stated that it is her belief that all 111 powers and responsibilities being transferred from Brussels should go directly to Holyrood.

Speaking on the issue at the weekend she said: “There is an issue of principle at stake that we won’t compromise on because if we did, we would allow Westminster to exercise a power-grab on the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament and I don’t think any First Minister worth their salt should agree to that.”

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Under the UK Government’s policy 86 powers and responsibilities would pass to Scottish Parliament with 25 ’freezing’ temporarily in order to establish a common UK-wide framework.

The proposal from the UK Governement would, according to their officials, operate as a “safety brake” and give the UK time to agree a common frameworks on issues like agriculture, environmental protection and fishing.

Despite the proposal, there is no timescale from when the powers would be given back to Scotland with the First Minister claiming that changes introduced at Westminster could undermine the UK’s internal market.

A Whitehall source told the Herald: “I don’t sense us moving from our position. We have already moved a hell of a long way and we can’t move any further in the way the Scottish Government wants us to do. We’re still talking and officials are working hard to find a way through but I don’t know whether we can now bridge that gap.”

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Suggestions of a Holyrood veto have also been dismissed by Westminster as it “would be giving away too much” from the central power.

Talks involving Mr Russell and David Lidington on the issue are due to resume on Thursday with no agreement expected.

Speaking following the last round of talks, the Scottish Government’s Brexit Minister stated that the deadlock came down to a single word: “agree” to rather than “consult” on the frameworks.

UK ministers are hoping to get agreement from their Scottish counterparts on their proposed changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill by the end of the committee stage in the Lords later this month.

However, there is still an option to amend it at report stage before MSPs have to give or withhold their consent.

READ MORE: Brexit: Scotland-UK row a ‘single word away’ from being solved

If no agreement is reached, the issue could result in a constitutional deadlock, however, Theresa May and her colleagues believe that most Scottish voters will not see the Conservatives as the party that held up the bill.

Speaking in the Commons, Theresa May said: “We will not be buffeted by the demands to talk tough or threaten or walk out. And we will not give in to the counsels of despair that this simply cannot be done, for this is in both the UK’s and EU’s interests.”

The SNP’s Ian Blackford pointed that the absence of Scottish Secretary David Mundell from the recent Brexit strategy meeting showed a “flagrant disregard by this Government for the nations that make up the United Kingdom”.

MSPs will begin their scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s controversial Brexit Bill today which is being rushed through Holyrood.

Holyrood is due to have its final vote on the Scottish version of the UK Government’s European Union (Withdrawal) Bill in just over two weeks time, on March 21.

Members of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee will be the first to question Brexit minister Mike Russell on the legislation - which Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh has already ruled to be outside of Holyrood’s legislative competence.

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However, Scottish Government ministers and Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC insist the proposals in the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill do fall within the Scottish Parliament’s remit.

The Scottish Government introduced the legislation to Holyrood last week amid an ongoing row over with Westminster over where devolved powers returning from Brussels should be exercised.