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MSPs in Westminster talks over EU Withdrawal Bill

18 January 2018

A cross-party group of MSPs, representing three Holyrood committees, is having talks with MPs and peers at the House of Lords today in an attempt to avert a "constitutional crisis" over the EU Withdrawal Bill.

It follows the UK Government's failure to bring forward amendments while the bill was before the Commons, to prevent the bill encroaching on the devolution settlements in the way it treats powers returning to the UK from Brussels. Members of the Welsh Parliament will also attend.

Amendments are now promised during the bill's stages in the Lords.

The three committees involved are the Finance & Constitution Committee, the Europe & External Relations Committee, and the Delegated Powers & Law Reform Committee,

Three SNP MSPs will be joined by two Scottish Conservative members and one from Scottish Labour.

SNP member Bruce Crawford, Finance & Constitution convener, commented: "It is hard to overstate our concern, indeed dismay, that the UK Government did not amend the bill during its Commons passage, despite a clear commitment to do so from UK ministers towards the end of 2017.

"If a constitutional crisis is to be averted, it is vital that the UK Government brings forward changes to the bill that properly respect the devolution settlement."

Conservative MSP Graham Simpson, Delegated Powers convener, added: "My committee is strongly of the view that the Withdrawal Bill should be amended so that UK ministers can only legislate in devolved areas with the consent of devolved governments.

"At the same time, there needs to be a process for the Scottish Parliament to scrutinise Scottish ministers' decisions before that consent is given.

"Ministers will have extraordinary powers to make laws under this bill, so it is vital that each of the UK's legislatures have the opportunity to scrutinise effectively regulations made under these highly unusual ministerial powers."

A UK Government spokesperson said "good progress" had been made in discussions, adding: "We have made clear that we will bring forward an amendment to clause 11 of the bill in the Lords, and are confident we can get to a position which has the support of all sides."

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