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14th Aug 2022

Scotland and Wales brace for UK clash on Brexit

  • Scotland wants to prevent the UK from retaining power over some policy areas after Brexit (Photo: maria_navarro_sorolla)

Governments in Wales and Scotland appear to be heading towards a possible constitutional clash with the UK given the messy departure debate from the European Union.

On Tuesday (27 February), the two governments issued emergency measures or so-called "continuity bills" that would broadly prevent Westminster from securing more power over Wales and Scotland once Britain formally leaves the EU.

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The bills will soon be debated in the respective parliaments in Edinburgh and Cardiff, and seek to ensure that issues currently administrated by the EU, like fisheries and agriculture, will not fall under the administrative grip of the British government in London.

"It is not typical for a minister to come to this chamber to tell members that they regret the introduction of legislation, but that is the situation I find myself in today," Scotland's Brexit Minister Michael Russell, said in a statement.

Russell said the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales have been denied any meaningful input into the Brexit process and in the lead up to UK's EU withdrawal bill.

Should nothing be done, he noted that the UK government will be able to take control over devolved policy areas after Brexit.

"This whole debate is about the existing powers of this parliament – powers in relation to policy areas, such as farming, fishing , justice and the environment," he said.

The Welsh government made similar comments, noting that the EU withdrawal bill would also the UK government to seize too much control.

"This is simply not acceptable to the Welsh government, or the people of Wales who have voted for devolution in two referendums," the Welsh government was cited as saying by Reuters.

The move comes ahead of a UK vote on the EU withdrawal bill next month, which needs a deal with Scotland and Wales before it can pass in the British parliament. Scottish ministers have previously described a clause in the bill as a power grab.

The timing of the Welsh and Scottish bills is crucial given the March vote.

UK prime minister Theresa May is set to meet the first ministers of Scotland and Wales to discuss Brexit ahead of an EU summit on 22 March.

Brexit is listed as one of big agenda summit items among the 27 EU leaders and heads of state.

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