Britain’s final withdrawal from the European Union would need the consent of the Scottish Parliament, a House of Lords report has suggested.
The report, published last month, says that in the event of Brexit, parts of the law that established the Scottish Parliament would have to be amended, and that can normally only be done with the Scottish Parliament’s consent.
Giving evidence to the House of Lords European Union Select Committee in March, Sir David Edward, a former judge in the EU’s Court of Justice, said that the Scottish Parliament is bound by EU law under Section 29 of the Scotland Act 1998, and the Scottish Government is also similarly bound under Section 57(2).
To amend this, it would be necessary for the UK government to seek the Scottish Parliament’s consent under the Sewel Convention, which states that “Westminster would not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.”
While Scottish consent would not apply to getting the withdrawal process under way by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, it does mean the Scottish Government could make repealing EU laws very difficult for Westminster by effectively trying to stay under EU law while the rest of the UK withdraws. Such a scenario would create a constitutional mess.
In the wake of Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been threatening to veto any Brexit deal, and also threatening a second vote on Scottish independence in order to stay in the EU.
However, former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has now admitted the Scottish Parliament is powerless to block Brexit, and insisted Ms Sturgeon never really suggested a veto was possible.
“The word veto never passed her lips, because Westminster has an override. So the Scottish Parliament can block but Westminster can then override.”
“Now of course there are political implications for that,” he added. “But the Scotland Act is quite clear, there is a Westminster override. It is not a veto but Nicola was correct to say it can withhold legislative consent.”
The Scottish Mail on Sunday also reported yesterday that the European Commission has ruled out a “partial withdrawal”, with parts of the UK staying in while the rest leaves. It also confirms that should Scotland break away and become independent it would have to reapply for EU membership like any other non-EU country.
Nonetheless, with uncertainty remaining over who the next Prime Minister will be, and David Cameron, the present Prime Minister, unwilling to start negotiations, the Scottish Nationalist leader may yet be able to exploit the power vacuum for her own ends.