Conservatives to progress Withdrawal Bill despite lack of support

Minnie Murray
May 17, 2018

Although the Scottish parliament has no veto over the bill, the refusal to give consent sets up an unprecedented constitutional clash between Edinburgh and London, complicating British Prime Minister Theresa May's plans for Brexit.

The minister said he was disappointed by "all the constitutional hoo-ha, all the bickering and politicking".

The SNP argues that the bill in its current state could mean that powers of the Scottish parliament could be changed by the British government without the consent of the parliament for the first time ever.

Later, Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson claimed that "Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrats have become the midwives for the Scottish National party's crusade to tear apart the Union, leaving only the Scottish Conservatives as the party that wants to get on and make a success of Brexit".

Though Tuesday's vote is not binding, it does put Theresa May into uncharted territory.

"I'm not sure independence will ever be off the table until it is realised", Sturgeon said on Monday.

On Tuesday the Scottish Parliament formally rejected the UK Government's key Brexit legislation, the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The Scottish Parliament and Westminster have been at loggerheads for months over how to manage European Union powers that will return to Britain after Brexit, including over state aid for industry, genetically modified crops policy, fishing quotas and farm subsidies, after ministers in London made a series of concessions brokered by the Scottish Conservatives. The U.K. can disregard the vote, but it would be the first time London asserts its dominance over the regional parliament. The prime minister briefed Conservative backbenchers on Monday about the two options her ministers are considering: a customs partnership which see Britain collecting tariffs on behalf of the EU; and a combination of technological and administrative measures created to diminish friction on a UK-EU customs border. "It becomes a bigger issue at the point when the bill is completing its passage through Westminster".

Public talk of defying Brexit, though, dissipated after May's governing Conservative Party increased support in Scotland in last year's election, even as she lost her United Kingdom parliamentary majority.

Because of a general inertia among Scots over the issue, Nicola McEwen, politics professor at the Centre on Constitutional Change at Edinburgh University, suggested that the Scottish government should instead play the long game.

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