Maree Todd: My Concerns with the EU Withdrawal Bill

Maree Todd MSP

Maree Todd

It’s been over a year since the UK voted to leave the EU and finally we are getting an idea of what that means: lower growth, higher household costs, and  fewer immigrants.

We’ll be poorer in every sense.

The UK is suffering huge reputational damage – side lined or absent at global summits and our Brexit negotiating team an international laughing stock.

Just last week, during the Holyrood recess, the EU Withdrawal Bill was introduced to the House of Commons. As a member of the Finance and Constitution Committee at Holyrood, I’m keen to give you my thoughts on it.

The first thing I want to highlight, is just how unusual it is for such a major piece of legislation to be published with so little advance co-operation between the UK and Scotland.

In fact, there was very little chance for Westminster debate or scrutiny when the draft legislation was published, never mind Holyrood!

In simple terms, the Bill does four main things:

  1.  it cancels the European Communities Act 1972.
  2. it saves and brings EU law into UK law, just as it is on the day we leave – called “retained EU Law”.
  3. the Bill gives UK Ministers powers to fix bits of law that won’t work after we leave the EU, even in devolved areas. The Bill also gives Ministers from the devolved parliaments their own versions of these powers – but with a lot of detailed restrictions.
  4. the bill puts a new limit on the devolved parliaments which prevents them from changing “retained EU law”, in policy areas which are devolved.

 I have serious concerns about the bill in a number of areas:

  • It basically ingrains a lopsided form of power sharing. The bill gives freedom to the UK Parliament but imposes a set of strict new rules on the devolved parliaments. In future Holyrood will only be able to make laws in devolved areas, if Westminster gives us permission.
  • The scheme in the bill for ‘fixing’ devolved law is not acceptable. Essentially, it means that UK ministers can make laws and bypass both parliaments!!!

I want a smooth transition as much as the UK government, but we must achieve this through negotiation, not imposition. This looks and feels like a Westminster power grab. It’s an attack on devolution – and democracy – as we know it.

Scotland’s concerns are shared by Wales and would no doubt be shared by Northern Ireland too if the Assembly were functioning – the Tories obsession with Brexit has brought constitutional crisis to EVERY part of the UK!

We heard repeated promises and assurances from senior Tory figures  – including Scotland Secretary David Mundell – that significant new powers over fishing, agriculture, and some energy and renewables policy would come to the Scottish Parliament.

However, the Bill, as introduced, commits no new powers.

Twenty years on since the referendum on devolution in Scotland, and the Tories are attempting an attack on the founding principles. They want to “take back control” from us too!

This is a regular column by local MSP Maree Todd  SNP

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