David Lidington to promise “a very big change” to EU withdrawal bill to placate devolved governments

Written by Liam Kirkaldy and Liz Bates on 26 February 2018 in News
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Cabinet Office minister to promise vast majority of powers returning from Brussels will start off in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast – not Whitehall

PA: Stefan Rousseau/PA

David Lidington will promise “a very big change” to the EU withdrawal bill in an attempt to resolve the deadlock between Westminster and Holyrood over the effect of Brexit on devolved powers.

Senior figures from both the Scottish and Welsh governments have repeatedly expressed concerns that the UK government will take control of devolved powers following Brexit, with the Welsh and Scottish first ministers claiming the withdrawal bill amounted to “an attack on the founding principles of devolution”.

Speaking in Wales today, Lidington will seek to allay fears, promising that “the vast majority of powers returning from Brussels will start off in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast – and not in Whitehall”, while outlining the need for common rules and regulations across all parts of the UK.


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Pledging to introduce amendments to bring in a presumption in favour of relevant EU powers being devolved, the Cabinet Office minister will say: “Let’s be in no doubt: this would mean a very big change to the EU withdrawal bill that is before parliament and a significant step forward in these negotiations.”

Lidington will say: “Some powers are clearly related to the UK as a whole and will need to continue to apply in the same way across all four nations in order to protect consumers and businesses who buy and sell across the UK, in all parts of what we might call the United Kingdom’s common market.”

“That market is one of the fundamental expressions of the constitutional integrity that underpins our existence as a union.”

Lidington, prime minister Theresa May’s de facto deputy, said in an article for the Sunday Telegraph that the devolved nations risk splitting the UK economy and damaging post-Brexit trade deals by demanding separate powers from Brussels.

He wrote: “We could choose to leave as a country split and an economy disjointed, struggling to make our way in a new world outside the EU.

“Or we can come together as one United Kingdom, confidently seizing new global opportunities as we build a prosperous, secure nation fit for the future challenges we will face.

“By maintaining legal UK frameworks where strictly necessary, we retain our ability to act in the national interest when we need to – protecting our nation’s security or signing trade deals with the growth markets of tomorrow, using the leverage and the diplomatic network of the UK to sell Islay whisky, Caerphilly cheese and buses from Ballymena throughout the world.”

His remarks prompted Nicole Sturgeon to tweet that her party was "simply seeking to protect the powers Scotland already has".

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Liam Kirkaldy and Liz Bates
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Liam Kirkaldy writes for Holyrood, and Liz Bates writes for PoliticsHome, where versions of this story first appeared.

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