Holyrood votes against EU withdrawal bill

MSPs debate the EU withdrawal bill

MSPs at Holyrood have formally refused to grant consent to key Brexit legislation from Theresa May's government.

A Scottish Government motion, making clear that Edinburgh Parliament "does not consent" to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was approved by 93 votes to 30.

Despite the vote, Scottish Brexit Minister Mike Russell has vowed this will "not be the end of the process", as the two governments aim to settle their long-running dispute over where powers returning to the UK post-Brexit should be held.

If no deal between Edinburgh and London can be reached, Westminster has the option of introducing the Withdrawal Bill against the wishes of the Scottish Parliament.

But it has never been forced to overrule Holyrood before, and such a move could spark a constitutional crisis.

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With consent having been refused, Mr Russell will now write to Theresa May's de facto deputy, David Lidington, calling on him come to Scotland and hear "hear the concerns of all parties and to discuss with the Scottish Government and the UK government any new ideas from any of the parties".

SNP, Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat MSPs all voted against consent, with only the Scottish Conservatives arguing the changes that have already been made to the Bill go far enough to protect devolution.

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Scottish Government ministers however fear the legislation, as it currently stands, could see Holyrood's powers constrained for up to seven years after the UK quits the EU and are demanding changes before they will give it the go ahead.

While Mr Lidington has said he is "open to suggestions that would improve the Bill" the UK government has repeatedly refused to drop clause 15 - which was formerly clause 11 - from the legislation.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, who has been calling for cross-party talks to resolve the dispute, said: "This means that the vote on consent for the Withdrawal Bill at Holyrood today need not be the final word on this matter - there is still time to fix this mess."

But Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins said: "It's profoundly regrettable that we don't have a deal in Scotland to allow us to move on.

"The blame for that lies entirely with the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon has refused to compromise. It's not in Scotland's interests that the SNP prefers picking fights to making a deal."

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