Brexit ‘power grab’ row heads to the Supreme Court

PUBLISHED: 11:58 17 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:58 17 April 2018

A row over devoled power post-Brexit is heading for the Supreme Court
Photo: PA / Andrew Milligan

A row over devoled power post-Brexit is heading for the Supreme Court Photo: PA / Andrew Milligan

PA Archive/PA Images

Relations between Westminster and the devolved administrations have hit a new low over the Brexit “power grab”.

The government is to challenge Brexit legislation passed by the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly in the Supreme Court.

The devolved governments brought forward the unprecedented legislation after a row with Westminster over the return of devolved powers from Brussels once Britain quits the EU.

Ministers in both Cardiff and Edinburgh have repeatedly branded the government’s EU Withdrawal Bill a “power grab” which threatens devolution.

The Scottish parliament’s presiding officer has previously ruled the Scottish EU Continuity Bill is outside Holyrood’s competence – although SNP ministers say they are confident it is not.

The Supreme Court will be asked to rule on whether the legislation is constitutional and within the powers of the devolved legislatures.

Attorney general Jeremy Wright QC MP said: “This legislation risks creating serious legal uncertainty for individuals and businesses as we leave the EU.

“This reference is a protective measure which we are taking in the public interest.

“The government very much hopes this issue will be resolved without the need to continue with this litigation.”

Michael Russell, minister for UK negotiations on Scotland’s place in Europe, said: “The Continuity Bill was passed by 95 votes to 32 in the Scottish Parliament, that is an overwhelming majority. Scottish ministers are satisfied that the Bill is within legislative competence.

“The lord advocate will be arguing in the Supreme Court that it is within the powers of the Scottish parliament to prepare for the consequences for devolved matters of UK withdrawal from the European Union.

“Our Continuity Bill is an important and necessary piece of legislation to prepare Scotland’s laws for Brexit while protecting the powers of the Scottish parliament that people voted for.

“The Scottish government has made clear it cannot recommend the Scottish parliament consent to the Withdrawal Bill in its current form.

“Alongside the Welsh Government, we have always said our preference would be to reach an agreement with the UK Government to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to respect the powers of the devolved administrations and both governments are ready to continue meaningful talks to further discuss potential solutions.

“While the Scottish government is not opposed to UK-wide frameworks in certain areas when these are in Scotland’s interests, this must only happen with the agreement of the Scottish parliament.”

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