Nicola Sturgeon just put a giant spanner in the works of Theresa May’s Brexit plans

Sturgeon May Spain
Steve Topple

Nicola Sturgeon has joined forces with Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones to give Theresa May a Brexit-shaped headache. Because the two first ministers have said they will be blocking the government’s Repeal Bill.


The Scottish First Minister and her Welsh counterpart have officially said they will be drawing up amendments to the ‘EU Withdrawal Bill”, or the so-called Repeal Bill. They have accused May of an “unashamed move to centralise decision-making power in Westminster”. And they have said that their respective governments and assemblies will not give “legislative consent” to the bill. Instead, Sturgeon and Jones have said they will be drawing up amendments to the bill to ensure that it “respect[s] devolved powers and responsibilities”.

A repellant repeal?

As The Canary previously reported, the Repeal Bill is a complex piece of legislation. The government first has to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act; which will end legislation that gives EU law supremacy in Britain. A House of Commons Library briefing paper called the bill “one of the largest legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK”.

Currently, 52,741 Brussels-based laws are used in the UK. These include:

  • The EU Climate and Energy ’20-20-20′ Package: Laws implementing the EU Emissions Trading Scheme to cut greenhouse gas emissions from major industries and various financial incentives to achieve 15% of UK energy from renewables by 2020.
  • Chemicals (REACH), hazardous substances (RoHS) and packaging requirements which UK manufacturers have to comply with to sell into the EU.
  • The Working Time Directive: Giving workers the right to a minimum holiday entitlement each year; also limiting the working week to 48 hours.
  • The Temporary Agency Workers Directive: seeking to give equal rights to agency employees and permanent employees.

The government will have to copy most of these with the Repeal Bill. But critics have argued that the Tories will attempt to drop various bits of law they don’t like. And a cross-party committee of MPs has warned that, for farmers, the Repeal Bill could be “zombie legislation”. This is because many EU laws would be unworkable in isolation in the UK.

Not happy

Sturgeon and Jones think the government will reduce devolved powers. In a joint statement, they said:

We are approaching the twentieth anniversaries of the referendums that established the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Those votes, and the development of devolution since 1998, provide the secure democratic basis for self-government in Scotland and Wales.

Since the vote to leave the EU, the approach of the UK Government to withdrawal has been a rejection of the principle of devolution, and the sharing of decision making across these islands, clearly chosen by the people of Scotland and Wales.

Most recently the UK Government has published position papers which involve the vital interests of Scotland and Wales but which have been prepared without the involvement of the devolved administrations.

Most seriously, the UK Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill is an unashamed move to centralise decision making power in Westminster, cutting directly across current devolved powers and responsibilities.

The Scottish and Welsh Governments have already made clear that they cannot recommend that the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly give their necessary legislative consent to the Bill. We believe that the Bill must not be allowed to progress in its current form.

To provide a constructive way forward, the Scottish and Welsh Governments are now working to agree potential amendments to the Bill which would address our concerns. We are also coordinating our advice to the Parliament and Assembly to ensure they fully understand our concerns and our alternative proposals.

It will now be for the UK Government to respond positively to our suggested amendments to move negotiations forward, and ensure there is a functioning legal system on withdrawal from the EU, and agreed UK structures, – where these are required – that reflect the views and interests of all parts of the UK, and respect devolved powers and responsibilities.


May is already having a tough week on the Brexit front. On Wednesday 23 August, the government revealed she has watered down plans to leave the European Court of Justice (ECJ). And after Brexit Secretary David Davis released some of the government’s plans for trading negotiations, the EU was reportedly left “confused and puzzled”. So with a stinging intervention from the Scottish and Welsh governments, the ‘Mayhem’ surrounding Brexit looks set to continue.

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