Power dispute

Sturgeon threatens legal challenge to market bill

Nicola Sturgeon speaking

Nicola Sturgeon: bill is an ‘abomination’ (pic: Terry Murden)

The Scottish Government is continuing to consider a legal challenge to Boris Johnson’s Internal Market Bill which it regards as an attack on the powers devolved to Holyrood.

Former Tory prime ministers Sir John Major and Theresa May joined criticism of the Bill, which UK ministers have acknowledged will breach international law.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove will meet EU official Maros Sefcovic in London amid growing concerns over the UK government’s plan to re-write the Withdrawal Agreement and in particular how it could undermine the protocol designed to prevent a hard border returning to Ireland. The EU says it wants “clarifications” on the implementation of the agreement.

The UK government says the bill sets out how the UK will operate as a single market when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says it will establish “world-leading high standards for consumers, workers, food, animal welfare and the environment.”

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It says that from 1 January more than 100 powers in a range policy areas previously exercised at an EU level will flow directly to the devolved administrations in Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont for the first time.

However, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the plan will be fiercely resisted by the Scottish Government “at every turn” as it tramples over powers currently held by the devolved administrations.

The First Minister said: “The UK government are not only set to break international law – it is clear they are now set to break devolution.

“The Tories’ proposed Bill for a so-called UK internal Market is an abomination. It is a naked power grab which would cripple devolution.”

She said it will mean “a race to the bottom” on things such as food standards and environmental protections.

“It would prevent the Scottish Parliament from effectively legislating in a whole range of areas, including laws covering the food people put on their tables, which is currently produced to high EU animal welfare and food safety standards,” she said.

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