Scotland and Wales ‘can’t accept’ Brexit bill in current form

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Scotland’s Brexit Secretary has said it is absolutely vital that the EU withdrawal Bill changes because the Scottish and Welsh governments cannot accept it as it stands.

Mike Russell MSP said the Bill in its current form will undermine devolution and cause great damage to the devolved nations.

Mike Russell

Mike Russell

Amendments seeking to change the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill’s impact on devolution are due to be debated by MPs in the Commons on Monday December 4.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart Carwyn Jones have branded the Bill a ‘’power grab’’ as responsibility in devolved areas is set to be returned from Brussels to London, so UK-wide frameworks in areas such as agriculture can be drawn up.

Control over these areas would only be given to Cardiff and Edinburgh at a later stage.

Mr Russell said that if the Bill is not amended, a legislative consent motion cannot be given for it and “there cannot be the progress that the UK Government wants”.

He told BBC Sunday Politics Scotland: “We are making progress but a great deal now depends on changing the withdrawal Bill. I think the UK Government knows that.

“The Bill is in the House of Commons tomorrow and it is absolutely vital that that Bill changes because neither ourselves or the Welsh government can accept the Bill as stands because it will undermine devolution and it will cause great damage to Scotland and to Wales and Northern Ireland.

“So the ball really is in their court, but we are making progress on the frameworks as we’ve always intended to do and we hope to come to a conclusion on it but it will require a change to the Bill.”

He said amendments being discussed on Monday, many drawn up by the Scottish and Welsh governments, would “cure the Bill.”

However, when asked whether SNP MPs would vote for the Brexit Bill if the amendments they wanted were agreed, he replied: “That is a different matter. What this is about is getting the Bill into a form that does not undermine devolution.

“Whether or not the SNP vote for the Bill will be up to the SNP group.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the UK Government is very close to reaching an agreement with Holyrood.

He told the BBC: “The SNP might vote against the Bill. What we’re engaged in in the discussions with the Scottish Government is about getting the devolution aspects of the Bill right.

“We’ve put in a great deal of work on both sides over the last few months and I think that we are very close to getting agreement on exactly what should happen to each of the 111 issues on the list that was published, how they should be dealt with after we leave the EU where some of those powers and responsibilities will come directly to the Scottish Parliament.

“Some will be dealt with by informal arrangements across the UK and there will be a small number for which legislative mechanisms will be required.

“I think we’re very close to reaching agreement on exactly how that distribution will take place.”