Unlock Democracy: Repatriating EU Powers
Unlock Democracy Part Three: Repatriating EU Powers
Interesting report out this week by Unlock Democracy detailing the democratic problems that Brexit has unleashed. The report was published under a Creative Commons license so over the course of three blogs I intend to reproduce the parts relevant to the devolved administrations. Regular readers will be familiar with these issues but it is nice to have them from an independent source.
Repatriating EU Powers
After Britain leaves the EU, powers in a wide range of areas that previously came under EU competency will be handed back to the UK.
In the government’s white paper outlining its negotiating objectives, it claimed:
We use the opportunity of bringing decision making back to the UK to ensure that more decisions are devolved.
However, they have made no indication of what powers will be devolved or how and by whom this will be decided. Some powers which will be returned to the UK from the EU are already devolved powers under the various devolution agreements. These vary according to the different settlements but the most significant include: agriculture; environmental policy; fisheries (completely in Scotland and with the exception of quotas in Wales); and Civil Judicial Cooperation (with the exception of Wales).
Returning these powers may be complicated; when all the devolved legislatures were bound to abide by EU law, differences in policy were minimal. When this requirement is removed it is possible that each nation could develop divergent policies which would create four competing internal markets. This could create problems in the future. The government has raised the necessity of joint frameworks on former EU competencies in their Great Repeal Bill white paper, they have promised “intensive discussions” on this subject. It is likely that even repatriated powers already within devolved competencies will not be solely under the control of the devolved legislatures.
Furthermore, there are also questions as to whether the resources necessary to develop and implement new policies in these areas would be granted by Westminster. For example, it is unlikely that Westminster would provide enough funding to fill the hole left by the subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy. The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, has even suggested that if money for farm subsidies were to come from Westminster the UK government may control how they are distributed.
Returning these powers to the devolved legislatures will not necessarily be a straightforward process and will require negotiations with the UK government.
A report commissioned by the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee of the Scottish Parliament found that the majority of powers that will be returned to the UK are actually reserved matters. This means they will automatically go back to Westminster after the UK leaves the EU. The government has indicated that some of these might be devolved but has not clarified how many will be repatriated and how this will be decided. #
Like in the Brexit negotiations the devolved nations have no real powers to influence these decisions.
In her common’s statement on the day article 50 was triggered Theresa May said:
we will consult fully on which powers should reside in Westminster and which should be passed on to the devolved administrations.
However, even if the devolved administrations are consulted, the extent to which their wishes are respected will depend on the level of generosity in Westminster.
Welsh economist Gerald Holtham told the House of Lords EU Committee:
The outcome will be decided by political weight. We will be consulted to death, but it will not change the outcome.
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