LONDON (Reuters) – The Scottish parliament refused consent for Britain’s flagship Brexit legislation on Tuesday, pushing Britain into constitutionally uncharted territory as London presses ahead with the bill regardless.
The devolved Edinburgh legislature voted by 93 votes to 30 to deny consent for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, currently going through the national parliament in London, which will cut political, financial and legal ties with the EU.
Although the Scottish parliament has no veto over the bill, the refusal to give consent sets up an unprecedented constitutional clash between Edinburgh and London, complicating British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for Brexit.
Britain’s Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the UK intended to push through the withdrawal bill, but that the door was open for further talks.
“There will be an opportunity for further debate and discussion,” Mundell told BBC News. “I still think we can resolve this issue.”
The independence-minded Scottish National Party (SNP), which runs the minority government in Holyrood, Edinburgh, said it would be “outrageous” if the British government imposed the bill on Scotland.
“The Scottish Parliament has spoken loudly and clearly – it’s now up to the UK government to respect that vote and ditch their power-grab,” SNP Scottish lawmaker Ash Denham said in a statement.
The dispute revolves around a clause in the Withdrawal bill that the SNP says limits the Holyrood parliament’s lawmaking ability, as well as the powers of its devolved executive.
Scotland’s parliament has lawmaking competence over a range of domestic issues like farming and fishing, though in practice they have been controlled by Brussels up to now.
An initial proposal last year by Britain that devolved powers returning from the European Union after Brexit should initially pass to Westminster was roundly rejected by Welsh and Scottish politicians.
The Westminster government has offered concessions to devolved administrations and May’s Conservative party points out that these have been enough for the Welsh government to drop their reservations about the bill.
But the SNP argues that in its current state, the bill could mean that the powers of the Scottish parliament could be changed by the British government without the consent of the parliament for the first time ever.
Reporting by Alistair Smout, editing by Stephen Addison