All three devolved parliaments reject PM’s Brexit deal

The Welsh Assembly joined Holyrood and Stormont in formally refusing consent to the Bill.

Consent: Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont reject Brexit deal. Wikimedia Commons
Consent: Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont reject Brexit deal.

All three of the UK’s devolved legislatures have now rejected Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

Assembly Members (AMs) in the Senedd in Wales voted by 35 to 15 on Tuesday to formally refuse consent to the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

It follows a decision by the newly-restored Stormont Assembly to unanimously pass a motion withholding consent to the legislation on Monday.

Earlier this month, MSPs at Holyrood voted by 92 votes to 29 to officially reject the deal.

Members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies can formally withhold approval for UK laws which affect them through legislative consent memorandums (LCMs).

Under the Sewel Convention, the House of Commons is not expected to legislate in devolved areas without the express consent of the devolved legislatures.

However, in practice it does not legally prevent the UK parliament passing such legislation against their wishes.

UK Brexit secretary Steve Barclay said the government at Westminster would “not normally” press ahead without legislative consent from the devolved administrations.

However, he said Britain’s withdrawal from the EU in ten days’ time amounted to a “specific, singular and exceptional” set of circumstances which justified doing so.

Writing to Scottish constitutional relations secretary Michael Russell on Monday, Barclay said: “I am disappointed that you do not feel in a position to recommend legislative consent to the Scottish Parliament.

“I am also disappointed that the Scottish Parliament voted not to give consent, particularly with the Bill at such an early stage in its parliamentary process.

“Despite the distance between our positions, I know we both recognise the enduring power and value of our historic relationship and also the important role of the legislative consent process – a principle to which the UK Government remains committed.”

He added: “Over the years, this has helped ensure that UK-wide legislation both reflects the concerns of the Scottish Government and respects the devolution settlement.

“Both through significant engagement on the Bill and the changes we have made to accommodate your concerns, we have at every stage respected the spirit and the letter of the devolution settlement.”

Barclay told Russell that although the UK Government would be proceeding with the legislation without Holyrood’s consent, it would “work to address your concerns”.

The Scottish cabinet minister hit back: “Throughout the Brexit process, the UK Government has ignored the wishes of the people of Scotland, votes in the Scottish Parliament and the views of the Scottish Government.

“The Tories have used Brexit to launch a power grab on Holyrood and Steve Barclay is now making it clear they are ripping up the rules that are meant to protect the Scottish Parliament so they can impose a hard Brexit.”

Russell added: “If Boris Johnson presses ahead it will demonstrate once again his contempt for devolution and the idea of the UK as a partnership of equals.”