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Boris Johnson reverses course on devolution ‘power grab’ bill

15 Dec 2020 2 minutes Read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture by Chatham House (CC BY 2.0)

Boris Johnson has signalled that he will back off from a bid to roll back devolution through a post-Brexit bill.

Today UK Government ministers unveiled new amendments to the UK Internal Market Bill that they said would protect devolved powers.

The Welsh and Scottish Governments have not yet responded as to whether they consider the proposed changes satisfactory.

Plaid Cymru and the SNP had previously described the UK Government plans to create a new “internal market” across the UK once the Brexit transition period ends as a “power grab” from Westminster.

The Welsh Government also had said the Internal Market bill was “an attack on democracy” which will “sacrifice the future of the union by stealing powers from devolved administrations”.

Last week the Senedd voted to withhold consent from the Internal Market Bill which would have allowed Westminster to overrule Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after the country’s EU transition period ends on December 31.

 

Climbdown

Under the new government amendments, however, different nations within the UK will continue to set their own standards in key areas of trade.

Under market access principles, rules would have been applied uniformly across the UK, but the changes mean that each devolved administration can be exempted following agreement with London.

The changes follow repeated heavy defeats for the Tories in the Lords over the issue.

Cabinet office minister Lord Callanan announced the U-turn at the despatch box in the Lords today.

“The government have listened carefully and reflected upon the points, put forward many times by your Lordships’ House on putting common frameworks on the face of the bill. And I am pleased to say that today we are able to act,” he said.

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