Minister denies seeking vetos over UK-wide post-Brexit trade deals

Picture: Jane Barlow/PA WirePicture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Scotland is not demanding any vetos over UK international trade deals post-Brexit, the Scottish Trade Minister has said.

Ivan McKee argued the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government must have a say in the negotiation and agreement of the deals.

Speaking in a Scottish Government debate at Holyrood on future UK trade agreements post-Brexit, he said: “Scotland needs a voice at the table to ensure our priorities are not ignored.”

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He added: “The UK Government has talked a good game about giving the devolved administrations a proper place and about devising trade deals that work for the whole of the UK but the reality is somewhat different.

“When put to the test they struggle to treat Scotland and other devolved nations as anything more than narrow sectoral interests.

“At best we are merely offered the chance to comment on already well-developed proposals.”

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The Minister continued: “The Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament must have a guaranteed role in all stages of the formulation, negotiation, agreement and implementation of future trade deals.”

He denied Scottish Conservative claims this means the Scottish Government is seeking any vetos over UK-wide trade agreements.

Tory MSP Adam Tomkins accused the SNP of failing to respect the devolution settlement by seeking to muscle in on the reserved area of UK international trade.

The Scottish Government’s policy paper on the issue amounts to a “nationalist powergrab”, he said.

“Not merely content with trampling all over reserved competence, the SNP are demanding a series of five vetos over the exercise by UK Ministers of their powers,” he added.

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“According to this document, the agreement of the Scottish Government should be required, not merely sought but required - that’s what a veto is - before any proposed trade deal is prepared, negotiated, ratified or signed.”

Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said the Scottish Parliament and other devolved administrations “should have the ultimate say on whether those trade agreements do impact and curtail or constrain devolved competencies”.

Labour’s Jackie Baillie said trade is fundamental to economic growth.

She said: “A strong economy post-Brexit will depend on us having a robust and progressive trade policy that actually reflects the interests of the devolved administrations as well as the UK Government. But unfortunately the Trade Bill falls short on that ambition.”

The Liberal Democrats’ Tavish Scott urged government attention to focus on the impact of Brexit on export businesses.

He told MSPs: “The hard reality for export businesses is what the devil is going to happen under the different scenarios that this country now faces.”