Theresa May’s hard Brexit ‘Great Repeal Bill’ could be vetoed by Scotland

If the PM really wants to save the union, she must bring Scotland into Brexit talks


So hard Brexit it is. That was the clear message from Theresa May’s speech to the Tory faithful yesterday, focusing more on the need to control immigration than accessing the single market.

This might be all well and good, but for those areas, especially across the north that voted for Brexit, the government has a duty to explain the full consequences of not having membership of, or access to, the single market.

What does control of immigration actually mean for those whose jobs are now under a cloud of uncertainty? And no, this is not ‘scare-mongering’, it is fact.

Take car makers Nissan and Jaguar, who have made clear that investment decisions are now on hold until guarantees of compensation for any tax barriers placed on their ability to trade with Europe if we lose single market access.

In response, Brexiteers have done the equivalent of putting their fingers in their ears when such news comes through, singing ‘la la la, I’m not listening’.

The suggestion politicians in Westminster know exactly why everyone who voted for Brexit did so is ludicrous. They voted for a number of reasons. Yes, for many it was about control over immigration, but others were persuaded by the scam pledge over extra money for the NHS.

If the Prime Minister is serious about bringing the country together she needs to recognise that people voted to leave the EU for a whole host of reasons, and ensure that something is offered to both them and the large number of people who voted to remain.

We might have got the ‘control’ that the Brexiteers so craved, but what control will a family have if someone in it loses their job as a result of leaving the EU?

And then there is the Scottish dimension. Sadly, for all the warm words about engagement, the Prime Minister seems to be failing to ‘get’ Scotland.

It voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and that needs to be recognised and addressed, not least because Holyrood may be required to give approval for the PM’s ‘Great Repeal Bill’.

As the House of Lords Constitution Committee recently noted in its report on the triggering of Article 50:

‘The Sewel Convention, also set out in the Scotland Act 2016, states that the UK Parliament will ‘not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters’ without the consent of the relevant devolved legislature.

Consent is also sought in respect of UK legislation affecting the extent of devolved powers (see Devolution Guidance Note 10).

Consent may therefore be required for amendments to the Scotland Act 1998, Northern Ireland Act 1998 and Government of Wales Act 2006 at the point of withdrawal from the EU, alongside the repeal or amendment of the European Communities Act 1972.

Already, Mike Russell, the Scottish minister leading on Brexit, has warned that the SNP administration are of the view Holyrood would have to provide legislative consent to repeal the European Communities Act, which, he suggested, might not be given, unless Scotland’s interests were better represented in the Brexit negotiations.

The reality is that yesterday’s speech by the Prime Minister and her team of Brexiteers does little to take Britain forward to ensure the ‘country works for everyone’, or whichever platitude is being spouted in Birmingham this week.

Theresa May pledged to bring the country together, yet is embarking on a hard Brexit that does little to take into account the concerns of those many, largely younger people, who now fear that leaving the EU will stifle their opportunities for the future.

Likewise, if she wants Scotland to remain within the UK, (as she says she does), the PM needs more than just warm words to prove she is serious about ensuring Scotland’s voice is heard loud and clear in the Brexit talks.

While the Conservative Party will today seek to move the agenda on from Brexit, there is unlikely to be much chance of it.

Yesterday was a day full of bluster that dressed statements of the obvious as grand statements of intent. If I were a teacher I’d be concluding that the government ‘must do better’.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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