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Cross-party talks to seek end to Brexit deadlock

Richard Leonard

Richard Leonard: ‘new ideas needed’ (photo by Terry Murden)


The Scottish Government has agreed to explore cross-party talks in a bid to break the deadlock over the EU Withdrawal Bill.

MSPs agreed to the talks as the Scottish Parliament voted as expected to refuse consent for the Legislative Consent Motion.

Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems joined the SNP in an overwhelming rejection of the Bill as currently drafted leaving the Tories isolated.

Following pressure from Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, the Scottish Government’s Brexit minister Michael Russell has agreed to involve other parties.

In response to a letter from Mr Leonard, Mr Russell said: “It would be appropriate for me to invite David Lidington, as the relevant Minister in the UK Government, to Scotland at the earliest possible date to hear the concerns of all the parties and to discuss with the Scottish Government and UK Government any new ideas from any of the parties.”

Mr Leonard said: “This is a welcome commitment by the Scottish Government, and it is now down to the UK Government to follow suit. 

“It is clear new ideas and fresh voices are needed to break the deadlock over the EU withdrawal bill. 

“People across Scotland want this issue resolved quickly and it is absolutely essential all parties work together to achieve that. 

“I hope that the Scottish Government will follow-up the good will shown in this letter by supporting Labour’s amendment to the motion on consent for the EU withdrawal bill, which calls for the cross-party talks Michael Russell has agreed to.”

The SNP said the UK government must now respect Parliament’s decision and remove the proposed power grab from the EU Withdrawal Bill.

It said rejection of the bill by the Scottish Parliament means the UK Government “must now act to remove Clause 11 from the bill, or make further changes to secure Holyrood’s consent before the EU Withdrawal Bill is passed by the commons.”

SNP MSP Ash Denham said: “The Tories think they can do whatever they like to Scotland and get away with it.

“If the Tories want us to believe that they value devolution, and that they respect the Scottish Parliament then they must act to remove Clause 11 from this bill, before the final vote in the Commons.

“Any constraints placed on Holyrood’s existing powers without Holyrood’s consent would be a democratic outrage – and it would fly in the face of the fundamental principles of devolution.  

“It would be even more outrageous if having seen Holyrood specifically refuse consent to this bill, the Tories imposed it on Scotland against our will.

“The Scottish Parliament has spoken loudly and clearly – it’s now up to the UK government to respect that vote and ditch their power grab.”

Scottish Labour’s Brexit spokesperson Neil Findlay, said: “As the party that delivered devolution Labour will always seek to defend and strengthen it – and that is why we could not vote to give consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill at this time. 

“The Tories shambolic handling of this key area for Scotland is pushing the case towards the Supreme Court.

“The people of Scotland want this mess fixed and even after this vote there is still time to do that.

“It is welcome that both the UK and Scottish Government have agreed to cross-party talks to resolve this deadlock and this must begin urgently.

“Labour stands ready to work with other parties to find a solution.”

The Tories said First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon “wants a crisis” over Brexit.

Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins has said the SNP was inviting a crisis on Brexit, as it was the best way for the party to push its own independence agenda.

The party’s constitution spokesman said: “A deal is there to be done on Brexit. It is deeply regrettable that the SNP has refused to take it. 

“Scottish Labour’s position simply doesn’t make sense; in Wales, the Labour administration has today backed this deal yet, here in Scotland, Richard Leonard is content to do the SNP’s bidding. 

“As for the Lib Dems, they admitted today that they weren’t even voting on the Brexit withdrawal deal, but because they don’t back the EU referendum result.

“It’s patently obvious that Nicola Sturgeon wants a political crisis to provide cover for her independence drive. 

“We will stand up for anyone – Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem – who wants to see the SNP challenged and taken on. 

“The SNP has taken the wrong path today. It’s deeply disappointing that the leaders of Labour and the Lib Dems have helped them do it.”

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