Government squares up for Brexit legal battle with Scotland and Wales

Posted On: 
17th April 2018

Ministers are heading for a legal showdown with their Scottish and Welsh counterparts over key Brexit laws passed by the devolved administrations.

The UK Government has asked the Supreme Court to rule on key Brexit laws passed in Scotland and Wales
Credit: 
PA

The UK Government has asked the Supreme Court to rule on the so-called ‘continuity bills’, which would keep EU law in force in the devolved areas after the Britain leaves the EU.

Both parliaments introduced the legislation as a replacement for the EU Withdrawal Bill at Westminster, in case an agreement with the UK Government cannot be reached.

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But the UK Government is challenging whether the laws are constitutional and within the power of the devolved administrations.

Attorney General Jeremy Wright said the legislation risked "creating serious legal uncertainty for individuals and businesses" as the UK prepares to exit the EU.

“This reference is a protective measure which we are taking in the public interest," he said. "The [UK] Government very much hopes this issue will be resolved without the need to continue with this litigation,” he said.

Scotland's Brexit minister Mike Russell said the Scottish continuity bill had commanded an "overwhelming majority" at Holyrood.

"The Lord Advocate will be arguing in the Supreme Court that it is within the powers of the Scottish Parliament to prepare for the consequences for devolved matters of UK withdrawal from the European Union," he said.

“Our Continuity Bill is an important and necessary piece of legislation to prepare Scotland’s laws for Brexit while protecting the powers of the Scottish Parliament that people voted for.

“The Scottish Government has made clear it cannot recommend the Scottish Parliament consent to the Withdrawal Bill in its current form."

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “Our continuity bill is a legitimate means of protecting Welsh interests and devolution settlement and we will defend any action before the Supreme Court.”

Tom Freeman is Assistant Editor of Holyrood.com, where a version of this story first appeared