The Westminster 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.
The Financial Times today cites a source familiar with the proposed UK internal market bill said it would create powers to enable the Westminster government to “force” Scotland and Wales to accept the standards.
“The net effect is that whatever — and that means whatever — happens to food standards as a result of signing [free trade agreements], the Scots and Welsh will have to accept those lower standard products on to their market,” the source said.
Michael Russell, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for constitutional affairs, told the newspaper that the Scottish National party government was prepared to fight in the courts over legislation that would give London unilateral control over the UK “internal market”.
“We do not accept that this is a legitimate way of operating within devolution,” he said. “[If] they pass legislation . . . then we will have no intention of implementing that and they would have to essentially go to court to force its implementation.”
A Welsh Government source said that the Westminster Government were likely to use legislation to force Wales to fall into line.
“Their mindset is that they want to police divergence by the devolved governments but it is more likely to be English divergence that causes difficulty,” said one senior Welsh government figure.
“Using primary legislation with mutual recognition is a sledgehammer that operates in only one direction.”
Last month the Farmers’ Union of Wales said it was “appalled” an attempt to protect farmers and consumers had been blocked by the UK government.
“With the Agriculture Bill now due to be considered by the House of Lords it is essential that they do all they can to correct this position,” a spokesman said.
The FUW said it had written to members of the House of Lords and MPs asking them to do “all they can.”
A poll by Which? last month showed that most consumers opposed imports of lower standard food as part of a future trade deal between the UK and US.
Out of more than 2,000 people who were surveyed for Which?, 86% were worried a weakening of standards under a post-Brexit free trade agreement could lead to banned products appearing in the UK.