The Scottish Parliament voted unanimously on 15 May to withhold consent for the government’s proposed EU Withdrawal Bill. The move airs concerns that the Bill represents a power grab by Westminster over devolved policy areas such as agriculture and fisheries, as policy-setting responsibilities return to the UK from the EU.
It is not yet clear if the Scottish Parliament is legally entitled to make such a decision within its devolved competencies, a point which the UK Government has challenged. The legal case brought by the UK Government will be heard by the Supreme Court over two days in July 2018, and will consider the legality of Scotland’s EU Continuity Bill.
Scotland’s Brexit minister Michael Russell said their lawyers will argue: “It is within the powers of the Scottish Parliament to prepare for the consequences for devolved matters of UK withdrawal from the European Union”, and that the UK Government is "using Brexit to try to take control of devolved powers without the agreement of the Scottish Parliament".
The UK government’s lawyers said that Scotland’s Continuity Bill would risk creating “serious legal uncertainty for individuals and businesses as we leave the EU”, and that the litigation against the Scottish Parliament’s Continuity Bill “is a protective measure which we are taking in the public interest”.
Michael Russell said, “The Scottish government has made clear it cannot recommend the Scottish Parliament consent to the Withdrawal Bill in its current form.”
“We have always said our preference would be to reach an agreement with the UK Government to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to respect the powers of the devolved administrations and both Governments are ready to continue meaningful talks to further discuss potential solutions.”
Scotland’s Continuity Bill would effectively be the Scottish Parliament's own version of the EU Withdrawal Bill, bringing EU laws across onto the domestic statute book ahead of Brexit.
In contrast, the Welsh Assembly has decided to support the EU Withdrawal Bill, but has expressed concern about the future ability of Wales to accept or reject food standards agreed through international trade deals.
Read the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill (Scotland Continuity Bill)
Read a background piece on the BBC website
Read details of the Supreme Court case on the UK government website
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