Power grab memo
Russell moves to refuse Internal Market Bill consent
Michael Russell: ‘no partnership of equals’ (pic: Terry Murden)
Scottish Constitution Secretary Michael Russell claimed the UK government’s Internal Market bill should be “stone dead” after he introduced a formal procedure for refusing to give Holyrood’s consent.
Mr Russell lodged a Legislative Consent Memorandum (LCM) which says the Bill undermines devolution and breaches international law.
He said it was a “defining moment” in the relationship between the SNP government in Edinburgh and Boris Johnson’s Conservative administration in London.
However, it is unlikely to be more than a gesture of opposition that will not stop the bill’s progress. Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has already said the UK Government plans to press ahead with the legislation – with or without the backing of the Scottish Parliament.
The UK Government has introduced the Internal Market Bill to ensure minimal disruption to trade between the four devolved areas of the UK when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.
Mr Russell claims it is a “power grab” that will diminish the devolved administrations, while the UK government insists more powers will be transferred from Brussels to Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff.
Ahead of a legislative consent motion in early October, Mr Russell said: “This is a defining moment that will determine both the future of the Scottish Parliament and whether or not the UK can be described as a partnership of equal nations.
“UK Government ministers have accepted the Bill will break international law. It would be equally outrageous if they decided also to break the constitutional convention that the Westminster Parliament does not legislate in devolved areas without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.
“The UK’s established constitutional rules mean that the consent of the Scottish Parliament is required for the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill to proceed.
“If the Parliament refuses to grant consent then that should kill the Bill stone dead. It will demonstrate beyond all doubt that the UK Government does not believe the UK to be a partnership of equals.
“This Bill opens the door to a post-Brexit race to the bottom and will mean democratic decisions of the Scottish Parliament on public health, environmental standards, food standards and a range of other key areas can be over-ridden.
“The Scottish Government will ask the Parliament to make a decision on whether to grant consent next month and the memorandum we have published today sets out in detail why we could never recommend the Parliament agrees that its powers should be eroded so fundamentally.”
EU hints at legal text
The move comes ahead of the resumption of talks between UK and European Union negotiators in Brussels with hints that the EU team are willing to begin work on a joint legal text of a trade agreement.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is ready to begin work on a joint draft version of a free trade agreement, known as a “consolidated legal text”, this week, according to The Times.
Mr Barnier expects Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost to provide more details of fishing quotas and the government’s future subsidy policy, the report says.
The talks last until Friday morning with expectations that this will be the final week for a deal to emerge ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deadline of 15 October.
There will also be discussion on energy links and transport.