Nicola Sturgeon opens door to Brexit powers deal

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The differences between the UK and Scottish governments over post-Brexit powers “aren’t insignificant but are not insurmountable” Nicola Sturgeon has said following talks with Theresa May.

The First Ministers of Scotland and Wales arrived in Downing Street with attempts to reach agreement over Brexit legislation deadlocked and little expectation of a breakthrough.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to media following talks in Downing Street

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to media following talks in Downing Street

However, following a one-to-one meeting with the Prime Minister, Ms Sturgeon offered an upbeat message on the chance of reaching a deal over changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill before a final deadline in May, when it is due to leave the House of Lords.

“There was no expectation going into the meeting that we would reach agreement today,” Ms Sturgeons aid. “We all aired our views and I think there is an understanding of the issues that require to be resolved.

READ MORE: PMQs: SNP accuse Theresa May of ‘demolition of devolution’

“There was certainly an indication on all sides that we want to reach agreement. That is our preference and we’re working hard to do it.

“From the Scottish Government’s perspective, there is a very important issue of principle at stake. We can’t have our powers restricted or reduced without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

“Hopefully over the next couple of weeks—because there is now real urgency about this—we can reach an agreement. There is further work still to do, but on the basis of these discussions, a willingness to get on with it.”

Following his own one-to-one meeting with Mrs May, Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said a deal was “close”.

Both devolved administrations are insisting that UK ministers ask for their agreement before 24 of the more than 100 powers in devolved areas returning from Brussels after Brexit are ‘frozen’ at Westminster.

The UK Government says it has to retain temporary control of the powers until agreement is reached on joint frameworks to manage them in the long term, in order to prevent any differences in regulatory regimes that could create internal barriers to trade within the UK.

Ms Sturgeon said she underlined the urgency of getting a post-Brexit transition deal for the UK by the end of March, and told the Prime Minister that Scotland should be involved in discussions around any deal with Brussels on fisheries.

And she repeated the Scottish Government’s view that staying in the European single market after Brexit was the “least worst option” for the UK economy.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister updated the First Minister on the Brexit negotiations and made clear her commitment to a deal that works for the whole of the UK and protects the security and prosperity of all our communities.

“On devolution, they discussed the tabled amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill that would ensure the vast majority of devolved powers will transfer directly to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast and committed to continuing to work together to find an agreement.”

Liberal Democrat Scottish Affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine MP said finding an agreement had taken “many months more than it needed to”.

“Both sides have to take some of the blame for their intransigence. It is essential that we get an agreement that reflects the principles of devolution,” Ms Jardine said.

READ MORE: Opposition accuse SNP ministers of ‘power grab’ in emergency Brexit bill