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Letter sent to key players

Leonard urges cross-party talks to end Brexit deadlock

Richard LeonardRichard Leonard: seeking a consensus (photo by Terry Murden)

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has called for cross-party talks to break the deadlock over the EU Withdrawal Bill. 

Mr Leonard has written to Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington and Scottish Brexit minister Michael Russell saying a consensus is needed to overcome the “difficult phase in the discussions”.

The Labour leader’s appeal comes just two days after Mr Lidington, the Prime Minister’s key adviser in Cabinet, told the SNP government that “the door is still open” to agree to the terms of the Withdrawal Bill. 

Despite months of talks, the Scottish government insists it cannot sign up to the bill, saying it would constrain some of Holyrood’s powers by Westminster for up to seven years.

Addressing the CBI Scotland annual lunch Mr Lidington said the bill “respects the devolution settlement” and that the “vast majority of powers will by-pass Westminster  entirely and go straight to the devolved level.”

Mr Leonard states in his letter that the current deal on offer is an improvement and that there is a need to “build trust and confidence”.

The text of Richard Leonard’s letter:

Dear Michael and David

Scottish Labour has been clear that protecting democracy and devolution is our ambition and a key guiding principle for the Brexit process. As the party that first delivered devolution for Scotland, we have consistently sought to defend devolution as an essential part of our vision for Scotland.

We therefore support all efforts of the Scottish government that are designed to meet this objective, where they are genuinely not used as a mechanism to promote the very different objective of a second independence referendum. 

From our perspective the current deal on the table is an improvement – as recognised by the Scottish government itself – but it is my opinion, and that of Scottish Labour, that more work is needed. Whilst we hold to our criticisms of how aspects of this process have unfolded, we also recognise and welcome the efforts that have been made in order to reach agreement. 

However, it is clear that we are now in a very difficult phase in the discussions, in which it is necessary to build trust and confidence to secure a satisfactory outcome.

In light of that I would like to propose that the most constructive confidence-building step at this stage would be cross-party talks involving the UK government, the Scottish government and representatives of parties in the Scottish Parliament. Talks on this basis would help us explore how we can achieve a consensus and so a breakthrough that delivers on the objective of protecting democracy and devolution.

Scottish Labour is prepared to participate in such talks with you both – and with representatives of the other parties – because we recognise that trust is essential to finding a resolution to this situation. Our offer is made in that spirit, and I am ready to help facilitate such talks.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Richard Leonard MSP
Leader, Scottish Labour

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