Westminster told to 'raise its game' and include devolved governments in Brexit
The Westminster Government needs to “raise its game” and give more say to devolved administrations in the Brexit process, a committee of peers has said.
The Lords EU Committee expressed concern that the UK Government was taking a “top-down approach” to allocating the responsibilities and powers that will be repatriated from Brussels on leaving the bloc.
The group of peers said Brexit should lead to a “significant increase” in influence for Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff but warned against any institution trying to use the turmoil to change the devolution settlement.
“Brexit will be a major constitutional change for the United Kingdom, and thus potentially a source of instability,” the report said.
“Any attempt to use Brexit to make a powergrab, either to ‘re-reserve’ powers previously devolved, or to claim more devolved powers, could compound such instability: this is not the time to embark on controversial amendments to the devolution settlements.
“We therefore believe that the existing statutory balance of competences between the UK Parliament and the devolved legislatures should as far as possible be unchanged.”
Today’s report also admonished the UK Government for failing to involve the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments more thoroughly in formulating its negotiating stance.
It added: “The over-riding conclusion we draw from this inquiry is that the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments, and, if it is formed, all parts of the Northern Ireland Executive, need to set aside their differences and work constructively together to achieve an outcome that protects the interests of all parts of the UK. No durable solution will be possible without the consent of all the nations of the UK.”
The report called for a beefed-up role for the Joint Ministerial Council to allow the devolved executives to feed into the UK’s negotiating stance before each round of talks with Brussels.
A UK Government spokesperson responded: “We have been clear that the Repeal Bill will not take away any decision-making powers from the devolved administrations immediately after exit.
“Instead, to protect the UK internal market, some decision-making powers being transferred into UK law will be held temporarily to allow intensive discussion and consultation with the devolved administrations.
“As the Secretary of State has made clear, it is our expectation that the outcome of this process will provide a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved administration and we are committed to positive and productive engagement.”
The Scottish and Welsh governments responded to last week’s repeal bill by warning that they would refuse to pass legislative consent motions without further safeguards for devolved powers.
The SNP said today’s report showed the UK Government wanted to use Brexit as “cover to grab powers from the Scottish Parliament”.
Stephen Gethins, the party’s Europe spokesman, added: “With every day that passes, the economic disaster threatened by the Tories’ extreme Brexit plans becomes clearer – this report shows Scotland’s voice, along with that of Wales and Northern Ireland, cannot be ignored by Westminster.”
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