UKGOV should take its own advice on common frameworks

This week, David Lidington MP delivered a speech designed to persuade the devolved administrations that the UK Government no longer plans to take back devolved powers as we leave the EU.

Essentially, the UKGOV is saying that they intend to let the devolved administrations have all repatriated powers eventually. But that they will take the important ones for a while until common frameworks can be agreed on how they are used.

So our proposal is to amend the Bill before Parliament to make clear that while frameworks are being agreed, the presumption would now be that powers returning from the EU should sit at a devolved level.

Westminster would only be involved where, to protect the UK common market or to meet our international obligations, we needed a pause – I stress pause – to give the governments time to design and put in place a UK-wide framework.

Make of that what you will, you can see from the response of Michael Russell MSP, that the devolved governments are wary of this approach. They agree with the need for common frameworks but they want to create them in a way that protects the devolution settlement.

Response to Government speech by Michael Russell(Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe).

What happens with regards to power repatriation remains to be seen.

I would imagine the devolved administrations will get what they want as it is not the UK Government’s interest to have a full-blown constitutional crisis when they have so many other problems. However, that scenario remains a possibility if they try to force through a plan that isn’t acceptable to the devolved powers.

What I found interesting about Lidington’s speech was that it contained many arguments for staying in the EU.

Many arguments for a common framework that the devolved administrations agree with but that his own government is ignoring in their Brexit plans.

He talked about the importance of a common market, at the same time as his government is so keen to leave the EU Single Market.

The Government will protect that vital common market of the UK. And by retaining UK frameworks where necessary we will retain our ability not only to act in the national interest when we need to, but to do so with a unity of purpose that places the prosperity and security of all of our citizens, no matter where they’re from or where they were born, to the fore.

He talked about the importance of getting rid of non-tariff barriers at the same time his government’s actions will lead to the creation of many.

For example, at present EU law means that our farmers and other food producers only need to comply with one set of package labelling and hygiene rules.

Four different sets of rules in different parts of the UK would only make it more difficult and more expensive for a cheesemaker in Monmouthshire to sell to customers in Bristol or for a cattle farmer in Aberdeenshire to sell their beef in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

He talked about the danger to the economy from erecting barriers to trade at the same time his government are almost certainly going create many new obstacles to trade.

Our seriousness about delivering more powers to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, while at the same time ensuring there are no new barriers for people across the nations of the United Kingdom.

So families can continue to buy and sell freely, so businesses won’t face extra bureaucracy and higher costs, so people face minimal disruption to their everyday lives, and maximum certainty that things can carry on as normal, as we look ahead to the future.

The strange thing about all of this is, the devolved administrations don’t want barriers to trade within the UK.

They accept the need for a common framework in areas such as fishing and farming so as not to create unnecessary difficulties for the economy. It is the government itself that needs to listen to Lidington’s advice. They would do well to heed it when it comes to the next round of Brexit negotiations.

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