UK and Scottish governments in Brexit talks

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The UK and Scottish governments are due to hold a fresh round of talks on Brexit in London.

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Brexit minister Mike Russell will meet First Secretary of State Damian Green to discuss concerns about the EU Withdrawal Bill.

UK ministers have said it is time to “get serious” about the issues.

The Scottish government is seeking changes to the legislation for taking the UK out of the EU.

It has described the legislation as a “power grab” and has said it will not ask Holyrood to give consent to the bill in its current form.

The UK government has insisted that Holyrood will see “significant” new powers devolved after Brexit.

‘Fresh opportunity’

However, both the Welsh and Scottish governments have objected to the idea that EU responsibilities in devolved policy areas such as agriculture should first be held at Westminster pending longer-term decisions.

The Scottish government has also been pushing for single market membership to be retained, and wants the country to remain in the European customs union.

On Sunday, Mr Russell said: “This meeting provides a fresh opportunity to set out the fundamental flaws in the bill and to encourage the UK ministers to take on board our amendments.

“This situation is easy to resolve and our amendments would, if adopted, enable the bill to go forward for the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

“If the UK government agrees to consider these amendments carefully and stops this attack on devolution, then I have no doubt we can work together to reach a sensible consensus between all governments.

“The UK government has taken a step forward in its negotiations with Brussels so it is now time for them to fully recognise the principle of devolved powers and take a step forward in their relations with the Scottish government.”

What is the repeal bill?

  • Formally known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the draft legislation is a key plank of the government’s Brexit strategy
  • The first line of the bill says the European Communities Act 1972, which took Britain into the EU, will be “repealed on exit day”
  • This will end the supremacy of EU law and stop the flow of new regulations from Brussels
  • But all existing laws derived from the EU will continue to be in force – they can be changed or scrapped by further legislation
  • The bill does not detail policies line-by-line but transfers all regulations into domestic law
  • It gives the UK two years after Brexit to correct any “deficiencies” arising from the transfer

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Damian Green said: “‘I believe that there are grounds for optimism and that we can make progress at the meeting.

“We both agree a UK approach will be required in certain areas. And there is no doubt that Holyrood will end up with more decision-making powers at the end of this process. It is now time to get serious.

“As the prime minister set out on Friday, strengthening the role of the UK Parliament and the devolved Scottish Parliament, and Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies in deciding our laws will benefit our country greatly.”

He added: “The UK government’s priority is providing continuity and certainty, so not to damage our hugely beneficial internal market and not to burden businesses with extra barriers to trade. We know that this is what people and businesses in Scotland want.

“EU law intersects with devolved competence at Holyrood in 111 policy areas.

“We need to start working through this list of areas with the Scottish government in a serious manner to determine what areas will require a UK approach, and where different practices will be acceptable.”

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