The UK Government says it will “intensify” Brexit talks with devolved administrations following a row over its failure to meet a commitment to amend legislation at the heart of ‘power grab’ claims.
David Lidington, the minister put in charge of talks with the SNP administration in this week’s reshuffle, told MPs the government was hopeful of making a breakthrough when the EU Withdrawal Bill reaches the House of Lords.
It comes as Scottish Secretary David Mundell faces criticism for failing to keep to a commitment to amend Clause 11 of the bill before the final stage of scrutiny in the House of Commons.
The government was forced to admit on Tuesday that it had run out of time do make the changes demanded by opposition parties and its own Scottish MPs.
Fears have been raised on all sides that the legislation will lead to a post-Brexit ‘power grab’ over 111 responsibilities in devolved areas that are currently held in Brussels.
The Scottish and Welsh Governments have said they will refuse to give legislative consent to the Withdrawal Bill as currently drafted, risking a constitutional crisis.
On Wednesday Scottish ministers wrote to the Holyrood presiding officer Ken Macintosh informing him that a ‘continuity bill’, directly challenging Westminster’s authority over the disputed powers, would be introduced in the Scottish Parliament in February and asking for it to be passed on an accelerated timetable.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford told Theresa May she had “one last chance” to produce amendments before the final Commons debate next week, warning: “The Tories always promise Scotland everything and deliver nothing.”
In a stark message to the Scottish Secretary, Mr Blackford later said: “David, do your job. You’re there to be the Secretary of State for Scotland. Demonstrate to the country that you can do that.”
He also said that “it would be appropriate for David and for the government to apologise, because the people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been misled.”
Mr Mundell is understood to have approached Scottish MPs privately to apologise for the delay.
Mr Lidington, a former Europe Minister whose appointment as Cabinet Office minister has been welcomed by SNP insiders, spoke to the Deputy First Minister John Swinney on Tuesday and is expected to travel to Scotland within days to restart the dialogue between London and Edinburgh.
A plenary meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee, involving Theresa May and the heads of the devolved administrations, is expected early next month.