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Tory minister tells SNP they ‘do not understand people of Scotland’ on Brexit rules row

Alok Sharma.
Alok Sharma.

A war of words has erupted between the Scottish and UK Governments over how powers will be shared out post-Brexit.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford described plans to create a new “internal market” across the UK once the Brexit transition period ends as a “blatant power grab” from Westminster.

But UK business secretary Alok Sharma has said the move will see “the biggest transfer of powers in the history of devolution”.

A new UK-wide rules framework is needed to administer the powers that will return from Brussels at the end of the year.

Many powers are set to be directly controlled by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations, in fields including food labelling, energy efficiency and support for farmers.

However, the UK Government has said the devolved administrations will still have to accept goods and services from other parts of the UK – even if they have set different standards locally – to ensure a level playing field in the “internal market”.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford.

Mr Blackford, speaking in the Commons, said the UK Government’s proposal was “the biggest assault on devolution” since 1999.

He said: “What we’re seeing put forward by the Tory Government is the biggest assault on devolution since the Scottish Parliament reconvened in 1999. It is clear that the Government either doesn’t get Scotland or can’t even be bothered to get it.”

He added: “Today the Tories want to strip our Scottish Parliament of its powers. Let’s myth-bust some of the lies that have been circulating this morning – Scotland is not getting 70 new powers.

“This proposal will impose what is being called a ‘mutual recognition regime’. The only recognition here is that it is a plan for a race to the bottom on standards.”

Mr Sharma rejected the SNP leader’s assessment, saying 111 powers would be handed to Holyrood.

He added: “He certainly doesn’t understand business in Scotland and he certainly does not understand the people of Scotland on this issue.

“The UK internal market is about preserving jobs, it’s about making sure that we have investment which can come in, confident in the knowledge that we have a level playing field.”

He added: “They’re not interested in taking control, they’re interested in being ruled by the European Union.”

Moray MP Douglas Ross, responding to the row, said: “This vital bill has to be in place to protect the UK internal market, and £55 billion of Scotland’s export trade with it.

“The nationalists walked away from the table and turned their back on negotiations a year ago.

“But despite their lack of interest, over 100 powers are being devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

“The real con is that Mr Blackford expects anyone to believe his outbursts.

“Time and again, such as in the Commons on Wednesday, the SNP have been unable to name a single power that will be taken.

“The real losers here are Scottish businesses and jobs, as the SNP do not care for the economy in their narrow obsession with independence.”

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