Plans for new Westminster regulator for Wales and Scotland ‘very confused’ and ‘unworkable’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture by Chatham House (CC BY 2.0)

Plans by Westminster to set up a regulator to oversee internal standards in Wales and Scotland have been branded “confused” and “unworkable”.

The UK government wants to have the final say on issues previously decided in Brussels including many policy areas currently overseen by the governments of Edinburgh and Cardiff.

The Financial Times today cites sources familiar with the plans who describe the plans which are being developed in the midst of negotiations with the EU as a muddle.

They said that the UK government are pushing for a minimal, light-touch regime for state aid for British business after Brexit, which was proving a stumbling block for trade talks between London and Brussels.

“The current plan is an odd combination of reserving state aid [for control from London] but then agreeing to a free-for-all,” one person familiar with the plans told the newspaper.

“They just want to be able to bung money at things and do not want UK internal market legislation cutting across that. It’s very confused.”

The newspaper also cites legal experts who warn that if the government failed to agree a statutory regulator it would both hamstring the chances of reaching a EU-UK trade deal and create an “unworkable” arrangement between the governments of England, Scotland and Wales.

“The EU is a creature of law . . . Having a body issuing reports, saying ‘this was a bit naughty, don’t do it again’ in the place of a proper independent regulator with teeth is just not going to cut the mustard,” George Peretz QC, a lawyer at Monckton Chambers in London, said.

 

‘Power grab’

It was revealed at the beginning of the month that the UK Government is planning to “force” Wales and Scotland to accept whatever new standards on food, environment and animal welfare are agreed in future trade agreements.

Food safety, agriculture and many aspects of the environment are policy areas are currently overseen by the governments of Edinburgh and Cardiff.

However, the UK government wants to have the final say on issues previously decided in Brussels and a free hand in post-Brexit negotiations with other countries.

Plaid Cymru and the SNP have 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.

They say that this would mean that Wales would, for example, have no ability to stop the sale of US chlorinated chicken if agreed to by the Government in Westminster.

“We have long warned that the Conservative Westminster Government was ready to grab powers back and this Bill marks another step down that path. Two referendums and two decades of devolution are being undermined,” Plaid Cymru’s Hywel Williams MP said last week.

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