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White Paper debate

PM urged to seek four-nation deal on internal market

Willie Rennie: We need to work together

Boris Johnson has been sent a message that the four nations of the UK need to be more involved in reaching an agreement on an internal market after Brexit.

SNP, Labour and Liberal Democrat MSPs said the Prime Minister’s government was trying to push through the proposals without proper consultation or agreement.

The Westminster government has been accused of a “power grab” that would over-ride the authority of the devolved administrations, while the Tories say the White Paper is more of a “power surge” that would enhance their authority.

Speaking for the SNP in a Holyrood debate, Jenny Gilruth said Westminster’s White Paper included no mechanism for negotiation between the four governments of the UK.

She said: “This means that the UK Government can impose decisions on the devolved governments with no right of appeal and no means of redress.

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“The Conservatives are kidding themselves if they can’t see this undermines the very foundations of devolution.”

Labour’s Constitution spokesman Alex Rowley said the Government’s plans would “damage the United Kingdom beyond recognition” and said any agreement on an internal market should be reached on a four-nations basis.

Furthermore, they would bolster support for independence, he said.

He said: “I want to make a direct plea to the UK Government to recognise that any arrangement for the UK internal market must be reached by agreement between the four nations of the UK.

“The idea that the Westminster Government can and will force its point of view on the other three nations regardless of what they think is not just ridiculous, it will almost certainly build support against remaining part of the UK and lead to the ultimate break-up of the United Kingdom as we know it.”

He continued: “Boris Johnson seems to have no respect for devolution, no respect for the governments of the other nations, therefore that will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom by Boris Johnson.”

Saying there were concerns from sectors including health and agriculture, Mr Rowley added: “The Tories must think again, if you want to damage the United Kingdom beyond recognition, then continue with your actions and continue to support Boris Johnson.”

Speaking after the debate Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said:  “I want a smooth-running internal market in the UK. But I don’t want its rules and regulations decided just by Conservative ministers acting alone in London. All four UK administrations should be involved in taking the decisions.  

“For example we need to make sure the UK ministers don’t sign up to dodgy food safety regulations in order to get a trade deal with Donald Trump.  

“Working together we would be able to protect the workings of the UK single market from being undermined by the unilateral action of a single administration.   

“That is a federal idea of co-operation and it contrasts with proposals in the UK Government’s white paper which give control of these issues entirely to UK ministers.  

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“I want to avoid unnecessary barriers to trade within the UK and foster co-operation.   

“People and businesses in Scotland deserve better than a choice between Conservative centralisation and the SNP’s plans which will create borders and barriers.”  

Defending the UK government’s position, the Scottish Conservatives’ constitution spokesman Dean Lockhart told MSPs the SNP’s EU Continuity Bill would lead to Holyrood becoming a “passive rule-taker” and impose the burdens of two regulatory systems on businesses.

Mr Lockhart said the UK Government had transferred “unprecedented powers” to the Scottish Parliament over the last decade.

“The internal market proposals cannot be viewed in isolation, they have to be viewed in the context of the significant new powers coming to this parliament.

“Because at the end of the transition period, the Scottish Parliament will enjoy a power surge, making this parliament more powerful than ever,” he said.

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