- Two of the eight pro-European Tories who have signed a key amendment saying the UK should stay in a customs union have played down the prospect of joining with Labour and voting for it. Their comments suggest talk of the government being defeated on this issue may have been overstated. (See 4.06pm.)
- A “significant” attempt by the UK government to resolve the deadlock between London and the devolved administrations over what happens to powers being repatriated from Brussels after Brexit has been met with anger and scepticism.
That’s all from me for today.
Thanks for the comments.
David Lidington’s speech has not gone down well with the Scottish and Welsh government.
The BBC’s Nick Eardley has tweeted this response from Michael Russell, the Scottish government’s Brexit minister.
And this is from the Welsh first minister, Labour’s Carwyn Jones.
I welcome the commitment of the UK government to continue to work with us on their EU withdrawal bill. However, as currently drafted, the bill allows the UK government to take control of devolved policy areas, such as farming and fishing, once the UK has left the EU. This is an unacceptable attack on devolution in both Wales and Scotland.
We now need further progress that goes beyond warm words and I hope the ‘very big changes’ promised in the speech equate to sensible amendments to the bill which respect devolution. We will continue to work with the UK and Scottish governments to that end.
In his speech Lidington also said the Tories were “too slow” to accept the case for devolution. He said:
As Edmund Burke put it more than 200 years ago: “To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link by which we proceed to love of our country and of mankind.”
I suspect that most of us here derive our sense of who we are from many different sources – from our family, from where we live, perhaps from a sports club, choral society or community group that we support, in many cases from our religious faith, and of course from our nation.
And in the United Kingdom we know that there is no contradiction between being an ardent Welsh or Scottish patriot and being a committed supporter of the Union. If I needed any reminder of that truth, it was when the secretary of state for Scotland was gloating to me about the rugby result on Saturday.
Looking back to the last century, I think – being honest – that my party was too slow to recognise that the increasing calls for devolution and decentralisation represented a genuine shift in public mood.
A substantial chunk of David Lidington’s speech about Brexit and devolution was briefed to reporters overnight and the key news lines are set out in our story here.
In the full speech Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, explained in more detail why the UK government thinks it is so important for London to retain some control over devolved policy matters that before Brexit were decided in Brussels.
Some powers are clearly related to the UK as a whole and will need to continue to apply in the same way across all four nations in order to protect consumers and businesses who buy and sell across the UK, in all parts of what we might call the United Kingdom’s common market. That market is one of the fundamental expressions of the constitutional integrity that underpins our existence as a union.
The Government will protect that vital common market of the UK. And by retaining UK frameworks where necessary we will retain our ability not only to act in the national interest when we need to, but to do so with a unity of purpose that places the prosperity and security of all of our citizens, no matter where they’re from or where they were born, to the fore.
For example, at present EU law means that our farmers and other food producers only need to comply with one set of package labelling and hygiene rules.
Four different sets of rules in different parts of the UK would only make it more difficult and more expensive for a cheesemaker in Monmouthshire to sell to customers in Bristol or for a cattle farmer in Aberdeenshire to sell their beef in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
(It was very odd for a minister in a government committed to Brexit to be giving a speech in favour of the common market, but that’s another matter.)
Lidington also said a bit more about the proposed changes to the EU withdrawal bill which would insert a presumption in favour of repatriated powers relating to devolution being transferred to the devolved administrations. He said:
So our proposal is to amend the bill before parliament to make clear that while frameworks are being agreed, the presumption would now be that powers returning from the EU should sit at a devolved level.
Westminster would only be involved where, to protect the UK common market or to meet our international obligations, we needed a pause – I stress pause – to give the governments time to design and put in place a UK-wide framework.
As I have said before, we expect to be able to secure agreement with the devolved governments about what frameworks should – or should not – apply to each power.
And where powers do need to be returned to a UK-wide framework, we will maintain the ability for the UK parliament to legislate to do so.
Just as the current provisions within the EU withdrawal bill on releasing powers to devolved governments are intended to be by consensus and agreement with the devolved governments themselves, so we should expect this new, inverted power to operate in the same way – by consensus and by agreement.
From the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush
A thread from Politico Europe’s Tom McTague starting here
From the New Statesman’s George Eaton
From the Institute for Government’s Jill Rutter
From the Fabian Society’s Andrew Harrop