Giving evidence today (Thursday) to the Trade Bill Committee in Westminster, Business for Scotland CEO Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp has warned that if the House of Lords follows the Commons in failing to protect devolved powers, then devolution as we know it will end.
Speaking after the Committee hearing, MacIntyre-Kemp said:
“This was a great opportunity for Business for Scotland members to have their concerns heard by the Trade Bill Committee. A recent survey of 758 business owners and leaders in Scotland told us that the majority doesn’t trust the UK government to secure a good deal for Scotland, and believe that the devolved administrations should have a seat at the negotiating table.
“Because if the devolved assemblies and parliaments have the power to say no to areas within legislative competencies, such as in healthcare or in the case of EU held powers such as food safety, farming and especially fisheries – which we were told would smoothly be returned to Scotland from Brussels following Brexit – then the UK negotiators don’t have the power to close deals. In short any future trade deal with the USA or any other nation that wanted access to NHS contracts for their companies would be asking the UK to sign a trade deal which would still be subject to a veto from the Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh devolved parliaments.
“It’s clear to me from research into this Bill that devolution and Brexit are incompatible and if the House of Lords does not cast in stone protections over devolved powers then we will have a constitutional crisis. Yet if they do protect those powers then we will have a trade crisis.
“Neither augurs well for the UK government, nor for Scotland.”
“Brexit does not have to mean leaving the single market or losing full access. Norway, Switzerland, EFTA members have differing levels of single market access. Likewise we have the option to stay in the customs union. There is a type of Brexit that is less damaging to the economy and practical for business.
“The EU Withdrawal Bill centralised as many as 100 European influenced powers in Whitehall after Brexit, even though they involve many policy areas devolved to the Scottish Parliament and to NI and Wales. The deadline to amend Clause 11 was missed by the Scottish office, and now can only be changed in the Lords reading of the bill. Thus sidelining Scotland’s elected representatives whom I believe were almost unanimously in favour of protecting devolution.
“At best this means that there remains a great deal of confusion over how trade negotiations will be handled where they overlap with the powers of devolved parliaments and that’s damaging to business and damaging to the economy.
“At worst it looks like a deliberate attempt to delay the transfer of EU held powers to the devolved parliaments until after the UK Government has had free reign to agree trade deals that run roughshod over the devolution agreements for the smaller nations in these islands.”
Watch GMK giving evidence to the Trade Bill Committee here: