UK ministers urged to table EU Withdrawal Bill changes

Scotland's Brexit minister has called on the UK Government to bring proposed changes on key legislation to a meeting on Thursday.

Michael Russell accused the UK Government of being "in paralysis" and warned if Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington does not bring an amendment protecting devolution to the meeting the current "constitutional crisis" will "deepen".

Mr Russell and Deputy First Minister John Swinney will meet Mr Lidington and Scottish Secretary David Mundell to discuss the EU Withdrawal Bill, which will transpose EU law to the UK following Brexit.

John Swinney and Michael Russell at a previous Brexit meeting with UK ministers (Jane Barlow/PA)
John Swinney and Michael Russell at a previous Brexit meeting with UK ministers (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Scottish and Welsh administrations do not recommend granting consent to the bill in its current form, branding it a power grab as devolved powers currently subject to EU frameworks will be returned to Westminster.

Conservatives claim new frameworks will devolve more powers to Holyrood but plans to amend the controversial clause at the House of Commons slipped and changes will now have to be made in the House of Lords.

Mr Russell told Holyrood's Finance and Constitution Committee: "There is no agreed amendment. There is no amendment which has been brought to us for the process of agreement.

"The UK Government is a government. It has to come to the table with a proposal, either that or to say it is not going to come to the table with a proposal.

"We can't go on forever having meetings about meetings."

He added: "There has to be an amendment to which we can agree to which takes away the power grab of clause 11.

"For some reason there's a government in paralysis and it has to change ... We're seeing exactly the same in these negotiations as appears to be the case with the EU."

Earlier, the committee heard from Dundee University law professor Alan Page, who said the country is a "long way" from a constitutional crisis, with which Mr Russell disagreed.

In his powerful opening speech in Lords debate on #EUWithdrawalBill@Andrew_Adonis quotes Lord Carrington in 1967 "What a lost opportunity for us and for Europe if we are deprived of the opportunity of making our contributions!" True then and even more true now....

-- Michael Russell (@Feorlean) January 31, 2018

He said: "I think we have been in a constitutional crisis for some considerable time. I think it's simply deepening."

Mr Russell said he believed the situation is worsening due to failure to bring forward an amendment for clause 11.

He added: "If David Lidington and the Secretary of State arrive tomorrow with an amendment in their hands which we can negotiate then progress is possible. If not, it isn't."

Questioned on the continuity bill, which the Scottish Government has proposed to fill in the gaps if Holyrood does not grant consent to EU Withdrawal Bill, Mr said it is currently with the Presiding Officer.

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