January 10, 2018 / 3:29 PM / 3 months ago

Scotland prepares contingency Brexit laws in stand-off with London government

LONDON (Reuters) - The Scottish government said on Wednesday it was preparing legislation that would ensure legal continuity in Scotland after Brexit as a fallback option in case it fails to reach agreement with Prime Minister Theresa May on her exit plan.

Protesters wave the EU and Union flags outside the Palace of Westminster, London, Britain, December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/Files

Scottish ministers are unhappy with several elements of May’s approach to legally enacting Britain’s exit from the European Union, including the way that powers reclaimed from Brussels will be distributed back to Scotland.

May’s government says she expects to have to seek permission from Scotland’s devolved parliament to enact her exit plan via legislation known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which is going through the British parliament..

The Scottish government has said it is not willing to give its consent until concerns about devolution are addressed.

With that in mind, Scotland’s ministers said they wanted to start contingency planning by preparing the Scottish parliament for the introduction of its own bill designed to ensure legal continuity after leaving the EU.

“As things stand, we need to prepare responsibly for the possibility of consent being withheld. To that end, our officials are developing a Continuity Bill for Scotland,” said a letter signed by Scotland’s Brexit negotiator Michael Russell and parliamentary business minister Joe Fitzpatrick.

The letter to Scotland’s parliament said their first preference was to negotiate assurances and safeguards from the British government over May’s plan. But, if those talks failed to produce a compromise, they would probably seek to start legislating on their own plan in February.

“The purpose of introducing the bill is to ensure that Scotland’s laws can be prepared for the effects of EU withdrawal even if it does not prove possible to rely on the UK Bill,” the letter said.

Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison

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