Brexit law is an ‘attack on principles of devolution’

Nicola Sturgeon has called for damage limitation and a transition period. Photograph: Katielee Arrowsmith
Nicola Sturgeon has called for damage limitation and a transition period. Photograph: Katielee Arrowsmith
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Brexit legislation is an “attack on the principles of devolution” and must be rewritten, a coalition of 80 civil society groups has warned ahead of a key Commons debate tomorrow.

UK ministers are coming under increasing pressure to U-turn on plans for post-Brexit devolved powers and amend a controversial clause in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that has been branded a power grab.

The Repeal Bill Alliance, which includes some of the UK’s leading human rights groups, environmental organisations and trade unions, called on MPs to “engage, debate and scrutinise” in search of concessions from the government.

Clause 11 of the bill sets out how 111 powers in devolved areas such as agriculture and the environment that are held in Brussels will be transferred to Westminster.

The UK Government has said many will be swiftly devolved, but the legislation does not set out a timetable for that process.

All opposition parties and the Scottish Conservatives are seeking guarantees to be written into the legislation. The UK Government has said it will listen to suggestions for improvements

However, last week Scotland on Sunday revealed how senior figures in the Scottish Tories and the SNP are making plans for the Bill to only be amended when it moves to the House of Lords next year.

Debate is expected to be intense as more than 60 amendments relating to the bill’s devolution proposals are raked over for up to eight hours in the Commons chamber before being voted on.

Organisations including Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Liberty and Unison added their voice to demands for the legislation to be changed.

Jane Thomas, co-ordinator of the Repeal Bill Alliance said: “By returning all EU power to Westminster against the wishes of Scotland and Wales, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill is an attack on the principles of devolution.

“As we go towards this important debate, the swirl of politics continues. The most recent development is the DUP threatening to renege on their confidence and supply agreement if Northern Ireland is treated differently from the rest of the UK on trade.

“The devil continues to be in the detail with this bill.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called on the UK Government to negotiate a Brexit deal that “limits the damage as much as possible” and said there must be a transition period.

Lesley Laird, the shadow secretary of state for Scotland, said Labour would “hold the UK Government’s feet to the fire” in the debate tomorrow.