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Fisheries White Paper sparks row with devolved administrations

Published by FiskerForum, 11-07-2018 · info@fiskerforum.dk

The Fisheries White Paper published by the UK government last week has triggered concerns over the lack of consultation between Westminster and the devolved Scottish and Welsh administrations. The UK government had made assurances that there would be consultation, and is being accused of failure to do so.

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing had been quick to criticise the white paper, commenting that ‘there is not a UK fisheries policy and to suggest so is misleading,’ while criticising the government for delay sending the draft of the white paper until it was too late for any meaningful consultation to take place.

‘This near lack of formal engagement presents a significant and continued risk to the current devolved settlements and is totally unacceptable,’ Fergus Ewing said last week.

Now Cabinet Secretary for Constitutional Relations Michael Russell MSP and Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mark Drakeford have written a joint letter to Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster David Lidington to highlight the concerns they share over the involvement of devolved administrations in developing the UK’s negotiating position on Brexit.

According to the Scottish Government, these concerns come after the UK Government failed to substantively engage with the Scottish Government while developing its future fisheries proposals. The two Cabinet Secretaries point out that the full draft White Paper on EU Negotiations has still not been shared with the Scottish and Welsh Governments ahead of Thursday’s Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations – despite previous assurances from the UK Government that the devolved administrations would have a meaningful opportunity in shaping negotiating positions as they are developed.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear David,

We are writing further to the unsatisfactory discussion of certain sections of the White Paper on the EU Negotiations at the Ministerial Forum on Wednesday.

This was clearly not the fault of your Ministerial colleagues who attended the meeting but of decisions taken elsewhere in Government about what can and cannot be shared with us.

We were not permitted to see a single word of the draft White Paper in advance of the meeting and could only make our contributions on the basis of a brief, oral summary of the relevant chapters. It is particularly bizarre that at least one chapter was sent to our Permanent Secretaries - who are not members of the Forum - while the meeting was underway.

This in no sense lives up to the assurance that we would have a meaningful opportunity to shape negotiating positions as they are developed.

Moreover, the discussion of specific elements was further undermined by a lack of insight into the broader narrative: discussing cross-border transport is difficult without the context of proposals on customs arrangements, and the proposed mobility framework covering migration is clearly crucial for the science and research chapter, civil judicial cooperation and many other aspects of the White Paper.

We therefore wish to make it absolutely clear that we will not regard any discussion of the White Paper at next Thursday’s JMC (EN) as meaningful, unless we have been given prior access to the text of the draft White Paper as it currently stands.

If we do not have this opportunity, we will have to make it very clear that we have been given no real possibility to consider, let alone influence the content of a document which will purport to speak on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom, about matters, many of which are devolved, and on a subject which is of the greatest possible importance to the people of Scotland and Wales.

We are copying this letter to the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, the First Minister of Scotland, the First Minister of Wales, and to David Sterling as Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

Yours sincerely

Mark Drakeford AM/AC

Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros Gyllid

Cabinet Secretary for Finance

Michael Russell MSP

Cabinet Secretary for Government

Business and Constitutional Relations

Source: Scottish Government

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