Boris Johnson Backs Down Over Brexit Bill’s Devolution ‘Power Grab’
Ministers make concessions on UK Internal Market Bill after heavy Lords defeats
Boris Johnson has moved to dispel fears that Brexit will undermine devolution in the UK after making key concessions to the House of Lords over his “power grab” plans.
In a move seen as a significant climbdown, ministers unveiled new amendments to the UK Internal Market Bill that would protect so-called “common frameworks” agreed with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after the country’s EU transition period ends on December 31.
The bill is intended to create a fair “internal market” between the UK’s four separate nations once Britain finally departs the EU’s single market and customs union, at the end of the transition period on December 31.
The changes follow repeated heavy defeats for the Tories in the Lords over the issue, as peers dug in during several rounds of “parliamentary ping-pong” to defend rights of the devolved administrations.
Nicola Sturgeon has already called the bill “a full-frontal assault on devolution” because it planned to hand London what had been EU powers over food safety, minimum pricing, environmental policy, and animal health and welfare.
Many in the Scottish and Welsh governments had feared the Tory government would use the legislation to embark on a “race to the bottom” on key standards.
The Lords voted three times to back amendments by independent crossbencher Lord Hope of Craighead, a former deputy president of the Supreme Court, to protect common frameworks across the whole of the UK.
Each time the Commons overturned them, but now ministers have decided to go for a compromise solution that allows them to keep the legislation while agreeing to uphold some devolved rights.
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