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Devolved governments may be sideined

Fox unveils plan to freeze Scots out of trade talks

Liam Fox vidInternational Trade Secretary Liam Fox is risking a new bust-up between Westminster and the devolved governments over his aim to make trade deals a reserved matter. 

Mr Fox is said to have written to Cabinet colleagues advocating bypassing Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in post-Brexit trade talks and denying the devolved governments a veto.

However, it has emerged that this is one of a number of options, which include a commonly agreed position with devolved governments before striking any deal. 

Critics pounced on a newspaper report suggesting the devolved governments would be frozen out of talks.

The SNP said it would pose a particular threat to the food and drinks sector which was last week confirmed as a major contributor to the UK’s exports.

SNP International Trade spokesperson Hannah Bardell MP said: “The International Trade Secretary wants to gamble with the future of our £14 billion food and drink sector and give himself unbridled power to allow American chicken, beef and genetically modified foods into the UK, thus overruling the decision taken in Scotland and Wales to ban the production GM foods.  

“Liam Fox’s letter confirms that the Tories’ ‘take back control’ rhetoric will have the opposite meaning for Scotland as Westminster tries to centralise more power and overrule democratic decisions taken in Scotland.

“With the next round of negotiations nearing, the UK government must meaningfully engage with the devolved governments to ensure that their interests are protected.

“We cannot let Westminster use Brexit as smokescreen for a power grab that will leave Scotland worse off.”

Plaid Cymru said any move to freeze out Wales would be “disgraceful”.

A Department for International Trade spokesman said: “We have been very clear that we want a trade policy that is inclusive and transparent and which represents the whole of the United Kingdom.

““We will not be giving a running commentary on possible future trade policy.”.

Comment: Why trade deals must be left to UK negotiators

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