May stands firm against Sturgeon in Brexit devolution row

Mrs May and the First Minister will come face-to-face for talks in Downing Street today with deadlock surrounding the flagship EU Withdrawal Bill.

Whitehall remains at loggerheads with Holyrood and Welsh ministers over how powers repatriated from Brussels are devolved.

Earlier this week the UK Government tabled its amendments to the Bill in the House of Lords even though a deal has not been reached.

Neither side is optimistic that an agreement will be reached today raising the prospect of a new constitutional battle between the SNP and Tories.

Speaking ahead of the showdown the Prime Minister said she would make clear any deal must bring the “our country together”.

Mrs May insisted it must protect “the security and prosperity of all our communities and business sectors” while reinforcing “our Union of nations”.

She added: “I am determined to secure a settlement that delivers an unprecedented democratic dividend for the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while protecting and preserving the precious Union that is at the heart of our past, present and future success.”

The Government has named 24 devolved policy areas where it wishes to retain power temporarily after Britain’s exit from the bloc, to allow for UK-wide common frameworks to be set. These include agriculture and fisheries.

It insists that the “vast majority” of those EU powers returning from Brussels will be controlled by Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast from day one of Brexit.

Ms Sturgeon hit out a lack of new proposals from the UK Government and insisted the current changes “do not respect devolution”.

She said: “While we remain determined to continue discussions on this issue, it is time for the UK Government to show respect for devolution and accept that no changes can be made to Scotland’s devolved powers without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.” 

It came as MSPs worked into the night on the SNP’s own “stopgap” Continuity Bill designed to plug holes in the statute book when the UK leaves the EU.

In a rare late Holyrood sitting members of the Finance and Constitution Committee considered more than 230 amendments.

Tories tabled 147 of the changes branding it a “woeful piece of emergency legislation which will do nothing but bring this Parliament into disrepute”.

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh has ruled that the SNP Bill is outwith Holyrood’s legislative competence, but the Lord Advocate James Wolffe has indicated otherwise.

Brexit Minister Mike Russell insisted there was “enough time” for scrutiny despite a three-week timetable.

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