Government officials are currently examining the need for common UK-wide frameworks for devolved powers returning from the EU in justice, agriculture and public health, the Scottish Secretary has said.
David Mundell said officials are looking at these areas regarding dealing with powers returning from Brussels as he was warned the failure to change the Brexit repeal bill stipulations on moving devolved powers from the EU to Westminster risks sparking a “constitutional crisis” in Scotland.
The Scottish and Welsh governments have said they will not recommend giving consent to the legislation in its current form as clause 11 of the proposed law would result in EU responsibilities in devolved areas initially being transferred to Westminster, branding it a “power grab”.
The UK Government claims the repeal bill, which will transpose EU law into British law, will give more powers to the devolved administrations but common frameworks will be needed in some areas.
Mr Mundell told Holyrood’s Finance and Constitution Committee he believes there is a “way through” the stalemate.
Committee convener Bruce Crawford said: “The ball is patently in the court of the UK Government and has been for some time to lay out what it sees as an acceptable way forward.”
He added: “Do you recognise that if clause 11 remains as it is currently drafted you are potentially creating a constitutional crisis if we cannot get this resolved?”
Mr Mundell said he is “confident” of getting consent, adding : “I believe it will be possible to find a way through in relation to the EU Withdrawal Bill.”
Questioned if this would happen before the end of the year when the committee is due to submit a recommendation on a legislative consent motion to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Mundell said he “couldn’t give that undertaking” but was hopeful of “significant progress”.
He said in the next few days government officials would carry out in-depth analysis on the need for frameworks in justice, agriculture and public health.
Mr Mundell said it is anticipated there would be “very few issues” with frameworks regarding justice but agriculture includes a “large number of areas where there might have a UK-wide application”.
He added: “Officials from all three governments at this moment are looking in detail at the implications of frameworks, non-frameworks, the structure of taking these issues forward with a hope that they will be able to come back to the Joint Minister Committee on European Negotiations to report how that process has gone and how we can take that forward in the context of the other areas.”
Junior Brexit Minister Robin Walker also gave evidence to the committee and said the scope of clause 11 is likely to be “substantially reduced” but it is needed to provide certainty that common frameworks would be in place.