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Nicola Sturgeon has warned Scotland will not allow Boris Johnson to affect the devolved powers with his Internal Market Bill. The SNP has accused the Government of planning a “power grab” disguised as an attempt to defend the sanctity of trade among the four UK nations in the event of a no deal Brexit. But UK in a Changing Europe director Anand Menon told Express.co.uk there is “very little” Scotland and the other devolved administrations can do to prevent the Bill from becoming legislation at the national level.
Prof Menon said: “I don’t think this is about Brexit per se, I think this is about the devolution settlement.
“There might be an attempt to fight this in the courts, I don’t know how that will go.
“But ultimately, politically, there’s very little if anything the devolved government in Scotland can do.”
Under the Sewel Convention, Westminster requires devolved parliaments to give consent for the UK Government to legislate on devolved issues normally under the control of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies.
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But Prof Menon suggested the political nature of the convention would not provide devolved governments with the power needed to stop the Internal Market Bill.
He continued: “Even if, as will happen, the Scottish Parliament withholds consent for this Bill, the Sewel Convention that says Westminster shouldn’t legislate on devolved matters without the consent of the devolved authorities is a political rather than a legal agreement.
“What that means is that is no obvious way the devolved governments can stop this happening unless they manage to do so in the courts, and that’s an open question.”
The Government has rejected claims the Internal Market Bill would affect devolution powers, insisting the legislation would be “the biggest transfer of powers in the history of devolution”.
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But economic expert Prof David Bell told MSPs the Bill could impact the Barnett Formula regulating the process for allotting funding for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Prof Bell suggested the legislation would provide ministers in London the power to allocate funds on a “wide range” of areas in Scotland, including devolved issues.
He said: “The powers proposed in the bill are extremely wide in relation to financial support.
“The UK Government is now taking power effectively to spend across a wide range of different topics and deliver that money to ‘any person’, that is the phrase that is specifically used within the Bill.”
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On Wednesday, Scotland’s Advocate General Lord Keen announced his resignation over opposition to the Internal Market Bill.
Lord Keen told the Prime Minister: “I have found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what I consider to be my obligations as a Law Officer with your policy intentions.”
Boris Johnson faced the risk of an internal rebellions because of the proposed Bill, with MPs seeking an amendment to the legislation to impose a parliamentary lock.
But the Prime Minister reached an agreement with two critics of sections of the Bill, Sir Bob Neill and Damian Green, in a bid to thwart the mutiny.
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