Claims by Theresa May’s deputy that Brexit talks with ministers from Britain’s home nations have ended accusations of a “power grab” by Westminster have been rejected by the Scottish Government.
Damian Green held talks with representatives from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the first formal meeting of the joint ministerial committee (JMC) for eight months, and claimed progress meant “talk of a power grab is now behind us”.
The Scottish and Welsh governments have raised serious concerns over the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which will see EU responsibilities in areas which would normally fall to devolved governments initially transferred to Westminster.
Scottish Brexit minister Michael Russell said Nicola Sturgeon would still recommend that Holyrood refuses to give its consent to the EU Bill “until the power grab is removed”.
Scotland and Wales have insisted the legislation undermines the principles of devolution, and warned they cannot recommend that legislative consent is given to the Bill as it stands.
At the JMC, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were able to agree with the UK government general principles on their role in any post-Brexit arrangements.
But speaking after the meeting, Mr Russell said: “However we remain unable to recommend the Scottish Parliament consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill as currently drafted and will not be able to do so until the power grab is removed from the bill.
“I have and will continue to press for the amendments suggested by ourselves and the Welsh Government to be accepted, removing the power grab and providing a clear solution that respects devolution.”
The UK Government has said it is necessary to bring powers back to Westminster before devolving them in order to develop common frameworks and prevent trade barriers being created within the UK. Mr Green described the JMC as “very constructive” and “successful” but rejected accusations of a power grab.
The First Secretary of State told reporters: “I think you will see from principles that we have agreed today that talk of a power grab is now behind us. We’ve agreed that obviously there need to be ways in which we preserve the UK single market so we don’t damage businesses in Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland. But (also) that we fully respect the devolution settlements, that we expect this to end with more powers going to the devolved administrations than they have had under the previous arrangement.”