Sturgeon v Boris Johnson: Rift brewing amid claims SNP have been excluded from Brexit talk
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Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has called for an urgent four-nation ministerial meeting on fisheries and maritime security after being excluded from the UK Government’s Brexit preparation talks. It comes after the European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said a deal looked “unlikely” and that the two sides remained at a stalemate over fisheries.
Meanwhile Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost said an “agreement can still be reached in September” but called for the EU to recognise it was in discussions with an “independent state”.
Mr Yousaf has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps complaining devolved governments have been omitted from the UK Government’s Ministerial EU Exit Operations Committee, where maritime issues are being discussed.
He claims that Westminster has had no “Ministerial level discussions” so far this year with the Scottish Government on post-Brexit maritime security.
However, the EU Exit Operations Committee has had three meetings in the past three weeks to discuss the matter, without an invitation to the devolved governments, Holyrood says.
The Scottish Government says that Scotland’s waters cover 62 percent of the UK’s domestic exclusive economic zone, which are currently being discussed in EU talks.
Holyrood also stressed that functions relating to maritime security are devolved, including fisheries protection.
Mr Yousaf said in the letter: “The Scottish Government has responsibility for many aspects of maritime security, in particular marine and fisheries protection, and given Scotland represents a large area of UK waters, we have extensive expertise to share.
“We have had a good working relationship with the UK Government, but it is deeply concerning that devolved governments have now been frozen out of UK Ministers’ maritime Brexit discussions.
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“This is more than just another example of UK Ministers seeking to undermine devolution and respect for devolved competencies – it compromises our ability to protect Scottish interests and seriously hampers the UK’s Brexit preparations on this critical matter.”
It comes just weeks after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote to Boris Johnson to request an extension to the Brexit process.
Ms Sturgeon believes that more time is required to complete negotiations and support businesses through recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter from Mr Yousaf, continued: “While we remain opposed to leaving the EU and believe it is extremely reckless to rule out an extension to the Transition Period, as a responsible government we want to be as fully prepared for Brexit as possible, including working with the other UK governments.”
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Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Michael Russell has already warned that a post-Brexit UK-wide internal market bill proposed by Boris Johnson will put Scotland and Wales on a collision course with Westminster when support for Scottish independence sits at 54 percent.
Mr Russell claims that would severely restrict Scotland’s ability to pass legislation and undermine Scottish democracy but Westminster it will protect the UK’s trade interests after the transition period ends in December.
But Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland and Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman, however, called for unity.
He told Express.co.uk this afternoon: “Right now people in Scotland need their two governments to work together.
“Whilst the UK Government does not strictly speaking need to consult the Scottish Government it would be far better if it sought to engage and build consensus.
“Scotland would be better served if the SNP focused on doing the day job.
“Conservative ministers should also stop giving them opportunities to manufacture grievances. “
The Cabinet Office has been approached for comment.
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