Wednesday, 18 July, 2018

Scotland rejects UK's Brexit bill

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Patty Aguilar | 16 May, 2018, 07:39

The SNP, Labour, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats all voted against consent, with only the Scottish Conservatives arguing the changes that have already been made to the bill go far enough to protect devolution.

MSPs voted by 93 to 30 that Holyrood "does not consent to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill".

The Scottish Parliament rejected the current Brexit bill, setting up a clash between London and Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, the UK Government has accused Scottish opponents of "nit-picking" and told its Scottish counterparts the "door is still open" for a deal to end the long-running Brexit powers dispute.

If no deal can be reached, Westminster has the option, under the Scotland Act, of overruling Edinburgh in times that are not "normal".

"If they now move to force on this parliament an arrangement for restricting devolution that does not have parliament's consent they will do so in the full knowledge that they are breaking the twenty year old devolution settlement and operating out with the agreed constitution". However even if Holyrood votes to refuse consent, Westminster can still go ahead and introduce the legislation anyway.

The problem is that clause 15 of that bill automatically transfers those new powers to Whitehall.

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But it would be politically unpopular and fuel the SNP's arguments that Westminster is ignoring the concerns of Scots and pursuing an English hard Brexit.

With consent having been refused, Mr Russell will now write to Theresa May's de facto deputy, David Lidington.

Over the summer the Supreme Court is also due to decide on the legality of the Continuity Bill, Scotland's version of the EU Withdrawal Bill, after a challenge by the UK Government.

Conservative MSPs say that the Brexit Bill does not threaten devolution of powers to Scotland, but Ms Sturgeon remains adamant on the proposal.

The UK government and Scottish Tories have so far refused to offer any further concessions after the Welsh government dropped its opposition to the bill and accepted the power-sharing plans on offer.

A Labour amendment calling for "cross-party talks in an attempt to broker an agreed way forward" was accepted, and Scottish Brexit minister Mike Russell said he would invite United Kingdom ministers to "hear the concerns of all parties" and to discuss "any new ideas".

"The blame for that lies entirely with the SNP". It's not in Scotland's interests that the SNP prefers picking fights to making a deal'.

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