U.K., Scotland Fail to Reach Agreement on Post-Brexit Powers

Prime Minister Theresa May’s government failed to reach an agreement with Scotland’s administration over repatriation of powers after Britain leaves the EU, as Scottish lawmakers said they would continue to reject the Brexit bill in its current form.

Scotland Secretary David Mundell and Prime Minister Theresa May’s deputy, Damian Green, met Scottish government ministers John Swinney and Michael Russell in Edinburgh on Wednesday, as they accused the London-based government of an “attempted power grab.” While the talks were “useful,” Russell said an accord had not been reached and further meetings have been scheduled in the next few weeks.

May’s flagship legislation to transpose all EU laws into British statute “is a blatant power grab which would take existing competence over a wide range of devolved policy areas, including aspects of things like agriculture and fishing, away from Holyrood,” Russell said in a statement following the meeting. “That means that unless there are serious and significant changes to the proposed legislation, the strong likelihood is that the Scottish Parliament will vote against the repeal bill.”

The ongoing dispute over the bill — which leaders of the Scottish and Welsh governments rejected last month — threatens to cause a constitutional crisis for May’s already weakened administration. Scotland voted to remain in Europe in last year’s referendum and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has since called on the U.K. government to prioritize continued access to the single market. 

The Scottish government says the EU withdrawal bill would see Westminster take control of significant areas of devolved policy, like farming, environmental protection and control of the seas. Its opinion counts because May is seeking consent from the legislatures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to approve the bill. While she’s not bound by their decision, there are no precedents for the central government ignoring such a refusal.

“There are issues on which the U.K. and Scottish Governments place a different emphasis, but we agreed that we need to work on the principles on which we’ll engage,” Green said in a statement after the meeting. “We were also united on the aim that the Scottish Parliament has more powers at the end of this process,” he adding, saying he was “confident” they’ll be able to “reassure the Scottish Government further of our good faith on these matters.”

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