September 12, 2017 / 1:33 PM / 9 days ago

Scottish government recommends rejection of EU withdrawal bill

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks on the 20th anniversary of Scotland voting to establish its own Parliament, in Edinburgh, Britain, September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Scotland’s devolved government has recommended that its parliament at Holyrood withhold consent for legislation to withdraw Britain from the European Union, on the grounds that it could water down their powers, a document filed by the Scottish government said on Tuesday.

The approval of the devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales does not represent a veto to the Brexit process, although it would stretch Britain’s constitutional tensions yet further by forcing the UK government of Prime Minister Theresa May to ignore the expressed wish of the devolved bodies.

Scotland would work with the Welsh government to propose amendments to the bill which, if agreement were reached, would allow it to recommend its passage in the devolved assemblies, the document said.

The bill will end the supremacy of EU law in the UK and convert all existing EU laws into domestic ones.

“Along with the Welsh government, the Scottish government cannot recommend to the parliament that it gives consent to the bill as currently drafted,” the document filed with the Scottish parliament said.

“The Scottish government is also clear that the result of withdrawal from the EU should not be centralisation of power in Whitehall and Westminster. However, that is what the bill proposes.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been arguing that Brexit as proposed flies in the face of the devolution agreement, which up to now has allowed assemblies in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast to legislate on their own domestic policies such as health and education.

Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to keep EU membership in a June 2016 referendum while England and Wales voted to leave.

”It remains a matter of regret to the Scottish government that the UK plans to withdraw from the EU. The government nevertheless accepts that preparations should be made for withdrawal from the EU, including preserving a functioning legal

system,” the document said.

“The Scottish government’s key objections to the bill as introduced relate to the provisions on the competence of the Scottish parliament and government (...) and those on powers for UK and Scottish ministers to alter domestic law,” it said.

The Scottish and Welsh governments argue that returning powers now exercised by the EU to the UK government will imply restrictions on the power of Scottish and Welsh chambers.

But Britain’s Scotland minister, David Mundell, has said that the repeal will ultimately result in a boost in devolved parliamentary power.

Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; editing by Stephen Addison

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