Post-Brexit continuity bid planned should Holyrood reject EU Withdrawal Bill

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Scottish legislation could be introduced next month to ensure post-Brexit continuity in the event that Holyrood refuses to grant consent for the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The Scottish Government said its proposed EU Continuity Bill could be introduced in February if necessary to ensure Scottish law is prepared for Brexit.

The announcement follows the revelation that the UK Government does not plan to amend its EU Withdrawal Bill to take account of the concerns of devolved administrations when it comes before Westminster next week.

The Scottish and Welsh Governments have said they cannot recommend that the UK legislation be granted consent in its current form, which would see EU responsibilities in devolved areas initially transferred to Westminster.

The UK Government says this will allow common frameworks to be created ahead of further devolution – but it has been branded a “power grab” by the first ministers of Scotland and Wales.

The stance is supported by Holyrood’s cross-party Finance and Constitution Committee, which has described the UK Bill as “incompatible with the devolution settlement in Scotland”.

The Scottish Government said it had a duty to plan for the Scottish Parliament deciding not to give the UK Bill legislative consent if changes are not forthcoming.

In a joint letter to Holyrood ‘s P residing Officer Ken Macintosh, Brexit minister Mike Russell and parliamentary business minister Joe Fitzpatrick said they were seeking a speedy timetable for Scottish continuity legislation.

The letter said: “The Scottish Government’s preference is to work collaboratively with the UK Government on the legislative consequences of EU withdrawal, including through the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

“Discussions continue on the potential for amendments to be made, but as things stand we need to prepare responsibly for the possibility of consent being withheld.”

It continued: “The purpose of introducing the Bill is to ensure that Scotland’s laws can be prepared for the effects of EU withdrawal even if it does not prove possible to rely on the UK Bill.

“It does not mean that we have definitely resolved to reject the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

“But unless and until the necessary changes to the bill are made, the Scottish Government must provide for an alternative so that on any scenario there is a legislative framework in place for protecting Scotland’s system of laws from the disruption of UK withdrawal from the EU.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “We want the whole of the UK to come together in support of the EU Withdrawal Bill, which is crucial to delivering the outcome of the referendum. Every part of the UK needs a functioning statute book and that applies as much to Scotland as elsewhere.

“As the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee acknowledged this week, we have made good progress in our discussions with the Scottish Government on common frameworks and we look forward to making significant further progress in the coming weeks and months.”