News | Published July 16 2020

Government sets out plans to hand new post-Brexit powers to devolved administrations

The UK government has revealed its plans to hand power over issues previously governed by the EU to the devolved administrations after the post-Brexit transition period lapses in December.

The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be given jurisdiction over issues such as air quality and animal welfare, which are currently under EU rules.

The UK left the EU in January this year but will continue to follow its rules and be part of the single market and customs union until the transition period ends.

The government plans to hand Scotland and Wales new powers over food labelling, support for farmers and energy efficiency after December. Northern Ireland, which will be subject to following some EU rules after the transition period, will be given greater devolved power, covering areas such as medicine pricing and rail safety standards.

The devolved administrations will, however, have to recognise the standards upheld in the wider UK in order to avoid damaging trade within the country, ensuring a UK “internal market” and guaranteeing a level playing field for all UK-based firms whichever country they are based in.

Scottish constitution secretary Michael Russell said that the plans undermined the authority of the Scottish Parliament and called the move a “power grab” which would enable Westminster to “impose lower standards on Scotland” as it looks to make trade deals worldwide.

Russell continued: "Our world class reputation for high-quality food and drink would suffer from these proposals as the UK government embarks on a race to the bottom".

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, said that the new plans will constitute a “power surge to the devolved administrations”, adding that Westminster would work with the devolved governments to develop a “new structure” to be able to “co-operate better and share ideas”.

Business secretary Alok Sharma added that the plans will ensure that trade within the UK is not hindered once the transition period lapses.

Westminster is currently insistent on assuming the power to vet support for businesses, which is currently held by the European Commission, something which the SNP opposes.

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon claims that state aid powers being handed to Westminster constituted a “full scale assault on devolution” and would undermine Holyrood’s power in key areas.

The Labour-led government in Wales said that new rules over trade in the UK must be subject to “independent oversight and dispute resolution”.

A Welsh government spokesperson said that the policy paper outlining the plans had not been seen by Welsh ministers prior to its unveiling, adding that an effort to "unilaterally impose a system" would be "deeply damaging."

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
July 16 2020

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