A bitter ongoing row over the post-Brexit location of farming powers continued to rage during a parliamentary debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill yesterday.
Scottish and Welsh MPs lined up to criticise clause 11 of the legislation, which prevents the devolved regions from passing new laws in areas which were previously the EU’s responsibility, such as agriculture.
Instead, those powers will reside with the UK Government – at least temporarily.
Critics claim the Bill, which was passed by 326 votes to 290, ‘drives a coach and horses through the devolution settlement’.
The First Minister of Wales has suggested the tussle could end in ‘deep constitutional crisis’, while Scottish Brexit Minister Mike Russell told MSPs the Scottish Government would ask Holyrood not to give consent to the Bill in its current form.
During the debate, Hywel Williams, Plaid Cymru MP for Arfon, said: “The Bill intercepts and retains the returning EU power and funds, and maintains what are the responsibilities of the Welsh Assembly, such as agriculture and convergence policy, are London matters.”
SNP MP Joanna Cherry, who represents Edinburgh South West, slammed clause 11 for ‘removing the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament’.
The Bill was also criticised by NFU Scotland in a statement which read: “In Scotland, policy-makers have had the freedom to determine different policy levers within the EU frameworks.
“However, the post-Brexit arrangement, as it currently stands, suggests some loss to this flexibility.
“NFU Scotland’s position is that any future policy must have significant built-in flexibility for the devolved administration to be able to use the agricultural budget to develop policies and tools which are fitted to the unique agricultural characteristics of the different parts of the UK.
“NFUS wishes to see less grandstanding and more constructive detail to emerge to allow industry to engage in a proper discussion.”
But Lord Chancellor David Lidington, who summed up yesterday’s debate on the Bill for the Government, promised ‘every single decision’ currently taken by the devolved administrations would continue to be taken by them post-Brexit.
“The only question is how we best allocate to the UK Government and to the devolved administrations the competencies and powers which will return to this country, because the devolution Acts were drafted in the context of this country’s membership of the EU”, he added.