First Ministers: Tories must listen to Wales and Scotland on Brexit

With Brexit negotiations ramping up, how much longer can the UK government ignore the nations of the UK?

The First Ministers of Scotland and Wales are demanding the Conservatives listen to the nations of the UK on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones met in Edinburgh this week to consider how best to respond to the UK Government’s ongoing Brexit strategy and activity.

In a statement issued following the meeting the First Minister confirmed the following:

  1. The UK Government has failed to involve the devolved administrations in the preparation of its position papers for the Brexit negotiations, despite many of the issues involved touching on the competences of the devolved institutions.  “The UK Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill”, the statement warns “is an unashamed move to centralise decision making power in Westminster, cutting directly across current devolved powers and responsibilities.”
  2. A potential constitutional crisis still beckons. Following confirmation by the UK Government that the devolved parliaments and assemblies will be given a formal opportunity to vote on the Bill both Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones confirmed yesterday that as it currently stands they “cannot recommend that the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly give their necessary legislative consent to the Bill.”
  3. The Scottish and Welsh Government will work together to “agree potential amendments to the Bill” which would address their concerns, opening a challenge to the Ministers in Whitehall about how much they are prepared to compromise to bring the devolved bodies with them.

The statement concludes:

“It will now be for the UK Government to respond positively to our suggested amendments to move negotiations forward, and ensure there is a functioning legal system on withdrawal from the EU, and agreed UK structures – where these are required – that reflect the views and interests of all parts of the UK, and respect devolved powers and responsibilities.”

It’s no wonder First Ministers are angry: Theresa May has refused to convene the key body that brings together the nations of the UK to discuss Brexit – the Joint Ministerial Committee – for over six months. With Brexit negotiations ramping up, how much longer can the Tories ignore the nations of the UK?

Given that Scotland and Wales are understandably threatening to refuse ‘legislative consent’ to major issues around Britain’s departure, the answer may be ‘not long’…

Ed Jacobs is a Contributing Editor for Left Foot Forward

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