May 21, 2018

Scottish Parliament rejects UK's Brexit bill

16 May 2018, 02:58 | Winifred Adams

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Jamie Oliver on Scotland's obesity targets

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Jamie Oliver on Scotland's obesity targets

The Welsh and Scottish first ministers had both called the United Kingdom government's original plans for the bill a "power-grab" as it would have meant powers in devolved areas such as food labelling - now operated by the European Union in Brussels - would transfer directly to Westminster rather than to the devolved administrations post Brexit.

The Scottish parliament refused consent for Britain's flagship Brexit legislation on Tuesday, pushing Britain into constitutionally uncharted territory as London presses ahead with the bill regardless.

Sturgeon, the first minister and SNP leader, has decided that consultation is not enough, and insists that her government or Holyrood should be given the legal power to block any changes they disagree with.

A source close to the negotiations said: "It's incredible that the Scottish government are now giving the impression that there was never any prospect of them signing up to a deal of this sort and that it's a constitutional outrage". As such, the Scottish Government insists all these powers should come to it, hence the claim from SNP ministers that the EU Withdrawal Bill is a "power grab".

Brexit means powers that have been exercised by Brussels returning to the UK.

The FM denounced the "absurdity" of the UK Cabinet's deadlock on future customs arrangements but said: "There's a real possibility - and the SNP can be part of this in the House of Commons - of forcing the UK Government...for remaining effectively in the current customs union".

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"There will be different opinions as to whether we should do that now or in five years or ten years time, but with that body of opinion, a constitutional option like independence is not going to be off the table", she said.

"The mechanism for us is not really the issue, it's the issue of the consent of the parliament".

With First Minister Nicola Sturgeon due to consider the issue of a possible second independence referendum this autumn, Westminster been seen as "ignoring" Holyrood could impact on her thinking.

- What is legislative consent and why does it matter anyway?

The dispute revolves around a clause in the Withdrawal bill that the SNP says limits the Holyrood parliament's lawmaking ability, as well as the powers of its devolved executive. "It would be even more outrageous if, having seen Holyrood specifically refuse consent to this Bill, the Tories imposed it on Scotland against our will", she said.

Ahead of the debate, a report from the assembly's external affairs committee said its six objectives for improving the bill had still not been met in full, despite the progress made.

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