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Holyrood needs proper say in post-Brexit policy, MSPs report

25 March 2019

Holyrood should have a proper say in developing policy post-Brexit in areas shared with the UK, a committee of MSPs reports today.

In its report on delivering common policy areas across the devolved nations of the UK, the Scottish Parliament’s Finance & Constitution Committee states that an opportunity must be provided for all legislative and non-legislative frameworks to be brought before the Scottish Parliament for consultation and agreement.

These must be reached through a process of negotiation and not imposed on devolved governments.

It has previously been agreed with the UK Government that common frameworks will be established where they are necessary to enable the functioning of the UK internal market, ensure compliance with international obligations, ensure the UK can enter into and implement new trade agreements and international treaties, provide access to justice in cases with a cross-border element, and safeguard the security of the UK.

The committee notes that the UK Government has identified more than 100 areas of EU law as falling within devolved competence, including 24 where legislative common frameworks may be required. 

Having commissioned research on Canada, Germany, Norway and Switzerland, the MSPs have taken "the consensual approach adopted to agreement making in Switzerland" as a model to explore further. "More specifically, its well established intergovernmental structures and formal arrangements for agreement making between cantons and the Federal Government (such as the Conference of Cantonal Governments) merit further consideration."

Committee convener Bruce Crawford MSP commented: "If the UK exits from the EU, under whatever the terms, common frameworks will be required to deliver common policy and regulatory approaches in some areas currently governed by the EU.

"The Parliaments and Assemblies of the UK are key to providing transparency, scrutiny and accountability, so we’re firmly of the view that the Scottish Parliament should have a formal role in relation to the process for developing, agreeing and implementing legislative and non-legislative common frameworks."

He added: "We welcome the progress being made with common frameworks on the basis of negotiation and agreement between the UK and Scottish Governments.

"We strongly believe that common frameworks must be arrived at through agreement and not imposed. Key to this is resolving by negotiation the extent to which policy divergence can exist within common frameworks.”

"Whilst work is underway to define the UK internal market, a key purpose of frameworks, we are clear that enabling such a market to function must not be at the cost of adjusting devolved competencies without consent from the Scottish Government and Parliament."

Calling for more urgency in reviewing working relations between governments, deputy convener Professor Adam Tomkins said: "A robust and trusted process of intergovernmental relations – especially dispute resolution – is also vital to reaching agreement on frameworks.

"Parliamentary committees across the UK consider the Joint Ministerial Committee mechanism not fit for purpose. The Interparliamentary Forum on Brexit, which includes the Commons, the Lords, the National Assembly of Wales and ourselves, has already called for more effective intergovernmental and interparliamentary mechanisms to examine common frameworks and to deliver greater transparency.

"As we heard during our inquiry, however, the current review of IGR appears to have stalled and we therefore recommend it is taken forward urgently."

Click here to view the committee’s report.


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