Scots and Welsh unite against Brexit
The Scottish and Welsh devolved governments say they would collaborate on amendments to the UK’s Brexit legislation, after concluding they could not support a bill they say marks a grab by Westminster for previously devolved powers.
The joint effort to influence the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was agreed at a meeting between Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh leader Carwyn Jones.
Many powers currently handled by the European Union are in policy areas devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the late 1990s, but the bill would allow the Westminster parliament to take them over after Brexit instead.
London’s approach could lead to a constitutional battle because under the so-called Sewel convention, the national Westminster parliament does not normally legislate on devolved matters without the approval of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland.
The Scottish and Welsh leaders said they could not push for legislative consent for the current Brexit bill.
The unusual cooperation between the Scottish National Party and Labour in Wales highlighted the concern among devolved administrations about being ignored during the negotiations with Brussels.
Sturgeon accused Theresa May’s government of “an unashamed move to centralise decision-making power”.
She said: “The approach of the UK government to withdrawal [from the EU] has been a rejection of the principle of devolution, and the sharing of decision-making across these islands.”
George Osborne, the former finance minister and now editor of the Evening Standard newspaper, has warned his former colleagues that Britain was “not ready to crash out of the EU”, adding that Brussels had the “upper hand” in the Brexit talks.
He said the country was now “poorer” as a result of the devaluation of sterling overseas, claiming that the UK had “gone from being the fastest growing of the G7 to one of the slowest growing”
But said Brussels was holding out on the paramount issues of citizens’ rights and the financial settlement or divorce bill because “they know they’ve got the upper hand”.
“Well I think you start with this basic, I think, error in the Brexit campaign was that somehow Europe needed us more than we needed Europe,” Osborne said. “The truth is we both need each other and in these negotiations in particular Britain needs a transition deal.
“Britain is not ready to crash out of the European Union in the spring of 2019, we don’t have the customs controls, the farm payment systems, the business arrangements that will allow that to happen, so we need to work with our European allies on that transition.”
Edinburgh largely opposes Brexit. Picture credit: Wikimedia