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UPDATE 2-Scotland and Wales say British government's bill threatens UK unity

Wed, 9th Sep 2020 06:52

(Adds comment from Scotland's first minister)

LONDON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Scotland and Wales said the
British government's internal market bill, which a minister
admitted breaks international law over Brexit, will undermine
the United Kingdom by stealing powers from Wales, Scotland and
Northern Ireland.

The bill, a blueprint for life outside the European Union,
will be published on Wednesday. A government minister has
acknowledged it would break international law in a "limited
way", and it jeopardises trade talks with the EU.

Under the United Kingdom's delicate constitutional balance,
semi-autonomous parliaments and governments in Scotland, Wales
and Northern Ireland known as the devolved administrations have
powers over areas like education, health, policing and justice.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the
pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), described the UK
government's new bill as "a full frontal assault on devolution"
that would steal powers from Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

She suggested the bill would strengthen the case for
Scottish independence.

"More and more this is not about independence v the status
quo of devolution. It's about independence as the only way to
protect the Scottish Parliament from being undermined and its
powers eroded," she said.

Sturgeon described Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government
in London as "the most reckless (and to make it worse,
incompetently so) and unprincipled in my lifetime".

Reaction to the bill was equally negative in Cardiff, where
it was described as a threat to the ties binding the four parts
of the United Kingdom together.

"Let me be clear – the UK government plans to sacrifice the
future of the union by stealing powers from devolved
administrations," said Jeremy Miles, Wales' counsel general and
minister for European transition.

"This bill is an attack on democracy and an affront to the
people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who have voted
in favour of devolution on numerous occasions."
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Estelle Shirbon)

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