Last week the Scottish Government released their Brexit impact report and it was a lot of doom and gloom.
Perhaps this is understandable; the devolved nations have a unique relationship with the EU and will feel the effects of Brexit more acutely than England.
For example, in the Scottish Government’s impact report it stated that leaving the single market could reduce Scotland’s output by 8.5% by 2030, which is equivalent to £2300 per head.
Furthermore, Wales (unlike Scotland and England) is a net beneficiary of the EU to the tune of £245 million a year, or 0.4% of Wales’ GDP and will therefore have a budget shortfall if this funding is not replaced.
The devolved nations and the EU Withdrawal Bill
The main concern for the devolved nations at the moment is the European Withdrawal Bill, which is passing through Houses of Parliament at the moment. This Bill ends the supremacy of EU Law and transfers it into domestic UK law. Essentially it is a massive ‘cut and paste’ operation.
The Bill is complicated by the fact that many Acts of Parliament rely on EU law and therefore need to be amended to reflect this change of supremacy. The three devolution Acts (Scotland Act 1998, Wales Act 2006 and Northern Ireland 1998) all rely on the premise that EU Law is supreme and therefore, the EU Withdrawal Bill attempts to amends them. The amendments to these Acts are in Clause 11, but Clause 11 has proved very contentious.
Clause 11: a “naked power grab”?
Clause 11 is seen by the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly as a “naked power grab”, and was called out as such by the First Ministers of both Scotland and Wales in a joint statement after the publication of the Bill. Essentially Clause 11 takes all the devolved powers that currently lie within the EU and gives them to the UK Government to control. There is the opportunity for the UK Government to return these powers, but the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly want amendments to the current Bill to guarantee this.
Nonetheless, no amendments to clause 11 were tabled when the Bill was in the Commons and so now there is the wait to see if any amendments are tabled in the Lords.
A back-up plan
If no amendments to clause 11 are tabled in the Lords, the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament have a back-up plan.
They have both passed a motion to note a Continuation Bill which they will enact if Clause 11 goes ahead without amendment. In a nutshell, this Continuation Bill could give all the devolved powers which currently lie within the EU to the devolved nations. The Continuation Bills won’t need to go through the UK Parliament and can be passed through the devolved governments in 4 weeks.
Where do the devolved nations go from here?
30th and 31st January: The EU withdrawal Bill will have its second reading in the House of Lords, this is when peers can make speeches about the Bill. A number of peers from the devolved nations are likely to highlight the problems with Clause 11 during this debate.
21st February: This will be the first Committee Day for The Bill. If no amendments to change Clause 11 are tabled at Committee Stage, the devolved governments will table the Continuation Bill in Holyrood and Senned…
… and from there?: We’ll continue to keep you updated on the progression of the EU Withdrawal Bill. Watch this space.
In the meantime, during these times of division and dispute, we must hold decision makers in our prayers.
Please pray that the decisions made in Westminster reflect the will of people and sow seeds of reconciliation rather than division.
 Scottish Government, Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment, January 2018
 Welsh Government, Wales and the EU Referendum: Estimating Wales’ Net Contribution to the European Union, May 2016
 Scottish Government, EU (withdrawal) Bill, 13 July 2017; Welsh Government, Joint statement from First Ministers of Wales and Scotland in reaction to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, 13 July 2017