Monday, 28 May, 2018

Scottish lawmakers reject Brexit bill in headache for May

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks at a Reuters Newsmaker event in London Britain Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks at a Reuters Newsmaker event in London Thomson Reuters
Marlene Weaver | 16 May, 2018, 02:54

Mr Fraser claimed Ms Sturgeon simply wanted to hand powers "in their entirety to Brussels" during a debate over whether Scottish Parliament should accept the Brexit Withdrawal Bill.

If no deal between Edinburgh and London can be reached, Westminster has the option of introducing the Withdrawal Bill against the wishes of the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish independence will never be off the table until it happens, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Monday.

Scottish ministers contend that the devolved parliaments should have to give express consent for changes to these frameworks, while the United Kingdom side argues that this would effectively give MSPs the power of veto over frameworks extending right across the country.

They have insisted the power retained by Whitehall would only be kept for seven years.

Mike Russell, the SNP's Brexit Minister, demanded that the UK Government respects the will of the Scottish Parliament but David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, confirmed it would press ahead with the Bill.

"This is not some abstract issue - this covers key policy areas such as farming, food and drink, fisheries and protecting the environment", Russell added.

It will be the first time since Holyrood was created.

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The SNP said after the vote that the Conservative government at Westminster should make changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill to address the concerns of the Scottish parliament.

"There is a clear solution which is, as I have said and as the committee agreed last week, to simply remove [clause 15] from the bill".

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". The Scottish Conservatives pushed hard for these changes and we are pleased to support them.

There was also praise from UKIP Wales leader Neil Hamilton, who said the Welsh Government had played "an extremely good hand in the course of the negotiations".

- Has Westminster ever pushed through legislation against Holyrood's wishes before?

He declared: "Nicola Sturgeon has refused to compromise".

Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie said MSPs needed to stand against Theresa May and Ruth Davidson's "devolution demolition squad". "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.

European Union negotiators have rejected both options and Conservative Brexiteers have criticised the prime minister's favoured option of a customs partnership as unworkable and inconsistent with regaining full sovereignty from Brussels.

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