No plans to amend Westminster Brexit bill next week ‘unacceptable’, MSPs told

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Scotland’s Brexit minister has said it is “unacceptable” that the UK Government does not plan to amend key Brexit legislation when it comes before parliament next week.

The Scottish and Welsh governments called for changes to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill to address concerns over its impact on the devolution settlement.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell told MPs in December that the amendments would happen during next week’s Commons report stage.

However, Michael Russell said this had been delayed.

He told Holyrood: “The UK Government said they are not ready to bring forward such an amendment and are suggesting that they may bring forward such an amendment at the House of Lords stages.

“This is unacceptable. Negotiation will continue, I am not giving up on that negotiation, but quite clearly the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament have to prepare themselves for circumstances that would otherwise be a cliff-edge.”

The Scottish and Welsh governments have already made plain they cannot consent to the Bill as it is currently drafted.

Their dispute with UK ministers centres on clause 11 of the legislation, which deals with the devolved administrations and the powers coming back from Brussels.

It would see EU responsibilities in devolved areas initially transferred to Westminster.

The UK Government said this will allow common frameworks to be created ahead of further devolution – but the first ministers of Scotland and Wales have branded it a Westminster “power grab”.

Failure to reach an agreement between the two sides could result in the need for “continuity” legislation in Scotland, with Mr Russell stating he would bring forward further plans for this later in the week.

The Scottish Government’s stance has the backing of opposition parties and Holyrood’s Constitution Committee.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said he believed amendments to the bill would be brought forward but he was “not entirely persuaded” the UK Government could not have done more.

“Let us be clear, clause 11 is not acceptable to Scottish Conservatives,” he said.

“I don’t blame the Secretary of State himself – there are officials who I think the urgency of the resolution of this point has been made very clear to, who in protesting that there has not been sufficient time, I think could have done more to ensure there had been sufficient time to get to that final agreement.”

Labour’s Neil Findlay said he would “work closely” with Mr Russell on the issue of legislative consent.

Meanwhile, in a report published on Tuesday, MSPs on the Constitution Committee unanimously agreed that clause 11 “represents a fundamental shift in the structure of devolution” and could damage “the integrity of the devolution settlement in Scotland”.

The committee, which includes three Conservative MSPs, made clear in an interim report it cannot recommend the Scottish Parliament gives formal consent to the legislation as it currently stands – calling for the clause to either be replaced or removed.

It has said it will produce a final report on whether the Bill should get legislative consent after these changes are made.

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