Less ten­sion but lit­tle progress as May and Stur­geon fail to break im­passe

● First Min­is­ter says she still can’t sup­port Brexit leg­is­la­tion ● Tory MPS in an­gry ex­changes over EU With­drawal Bill

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By PARIS GOURTSOYANNIS West­min­ster Cor­re­spon­dent

Ef­forts to avoid a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis over Brexit re­main dead­locked af­ter Nicola Stur­geon emerged from a meet­ing with Theresa May say­ing she still could not sup­port leg­is­la­tion that will take the UK out of the EU.

Af­ter a 40-minute face-to­face sum­mit, the First Min­is­ter told re­porters that the two sides had inched to­wards a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of each other’s po­si­tions, but said there was “still a long way to go” to reach a deal.

Ms Stur­geon said she could not rec­om­mend that Holy­rood pass a leg­isla­tive con­sent mo­tion ap­prov­ing the bill, mean­ing the con­sti­tu­tional im­passe is set to hang over the Brexit process into the new year. The meet­ing came as MPS were in­volved in fiery ex­changes dur­ing the first day of de­bate on amend­ments to the cru­cial EU (With­drawal) Bill.

Speakingout­si­de­num­ber10, the First Min­is­ter said: “I made very clear, as the Scottish Gov­ern­ment has done con­sis­tently that the With­drawal Bill as it stands would not be ac­cept­able, and we would not be able to rec­om­mend ap­proval of that.

“That re­mains the po­si­tion, but hope­fully, hav­ing had the chance to air the con­cerns that we have in more de­tail, we will be able to see some more progress in weeks to come.”

The Scottish Gov­ern­ment wants leg­is­la­tion changed so that 111 pow­ers held by the EU in de­volved ar­eas re­turn to Holy­rood, rather than be­ing held by West­min­ster be­fore some of them are handed on.

Min­is­ters from both gov­ern­ments are un­der­stood to have reached a broad agree­ment on which pow­ers will re­quire co-op­er­a­tion to main­tain a com­mon reg­u­la­tory regime across the UK, but talks are dead­locked on the prin­ci­ple of where pow­ers will lie, with the SNP and Labour ac­cus­ing the Con­ser­va­tives of a “power grab”.

It was the first meet­ing be­tween the two lead­ers since March, and fol­lows dis­parag­ing comments by Ms Stur­geon who said the Prime Min­is­ter was “dif­fi­cult” to deal with and read off a script even when hold­ing talks in pri­vate. There were re­ports dur­ing the sum­mer that Ms Stur­geon would be “banned” from face to face meet­ings with Mrs May.

Last night, the First Min­is­ter said the en­counter had been “con­struc­tive and cor­dial”, adding: “It was cer­tainly bet­ter than some of the meet­ings we’ve had be­fore.”

Shadow Scot­land sec­re­tary Les­ley Laird MP said the coun­try was “stuck be­tween two ob­sti­nate gov­ern­ments” and called for com­pro­mise.

“The First Min­is­ter re­fuses to rule out a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, while the Prime Min­is­ter is in­tent on a race-to-the-bot­tom Brexit which hoards power in West­min­ster. The peo­ple of Scot­land de­serve bet­ter.”

Scottish Con­ser­va­tive con­sti­tu­tion­spokesman­adamtomkins MSP said it was “clear there is a deal to be done on the re­turn of pow­ers which both re­spects de­vo­lu­tion and pro­tects the UK in­ter­nal mar­ket”.

In the Com­mons, a pro­posal by Plaid Cymru that would re­quire the UK gov­ern­ment to get con­sent from de­volved leg­is­la­tures­be­fore­leav­ingth­eeu was de­feated by 318 votes to 52.

Plaid MP Hy­wel Wil­liams had claimed Mrs May would be “break­ing her prom­ise” to de­liver a Brexit that works for the whole UK if she failed to win the con­sent of de­volved ad­min­is­tra­tions.

An­gry Con­ser­va­tive MPS clashed over a gov­ern­ment amend­ment­tofix­the­datethat Brexit takes ef­fect as 29 March 2019, say­ing it would force the UK out of the EU with­out a deal if ne­go­ti­a­tions go down to the wire. The amend­ment will be voted on near the end of eight days of de­bate spread over the next four weeks on more than 400 pro­posed changes.

For­mer chan­cel­lor Ken Clarke said plans to fix the Brexit date were “ridicu­lous

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