Theresa Villiers: “ultimately it is parliament’s decision whether we repeal the 1972 European Communities Act or whether we don’t.”

Andy’s valiant attempt at providing clarity on the role of the devolved institutions in the UK’s withdrawal from the EU doesn’t appear to have worked for some of our local representatives.

The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, couldn’t have been clearer.

“In the weeks and months ahead we will be working with both the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive on all these matters,” [Theresa Villiers] told BBC’s Sunday Politics show.

“But ultimately it is parliament’s decision whether we repeal the 1972 European Communities Act or whether we don’t.”

Only to be contradicted, in the same report, by the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

“We have been studying this for the last number of days – I don’t think the Leave campaign have thought this through,” [Colum Eastwood] said.

“I don’t think they expected to win and now they are in a situation where they don’t know how to deliver this.

“We believe that the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish parliament have the opportunity to say no.”

He added: “We will not be about to give the Brexit campaigners the opportunity to ride roughshod over the democratic process in Northern Ireland.”

Which may be somewhat economical with the actualité

The Northern Ireland Finance Minister, Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, appears to have gone further.  According to the BBC NI News Live [11.11am]

The [NI Finance Minister, Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir] says he believes Northern Ireland has a veto “over attempts to force us out of the EU”

I’ve not been able to get a full quote, but if he did say “veto” he’s wrong.

One of the few adults in the room on BBC NI’s Sunday Politics yesterday was Alliance Party deputy leader Naomi Long

However, Naomi Long of the Alliance Party said ultimately there was nothing the regional parliaments could do.

“We would have the opportunity to make decisions over specific EU rules and laws that actually apply in Northern Ireland,” she said

“However, parliament remains with primacy , it can take back power from Holyrood, it can take back power from the assembly, so let’s not kid ourselves.”

Rather than relying on headlines from the current Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, local representatives might do better by listening instead to the former holder of that post, her party colleague Alex Salmond.

…Mr Salmond told BBC Radio Scotland today: “What Nicola said is the Scottish Parliament would likely withold legislative consent and legislative consent is necessary.

“But Nicola knows full well that legislative consent is not a veto and the words veto never passed her lips, because of course, I think clause 28 of the Scotland Act says Westminster has an override.

“So the Scottish Parliament can block but Westminster can override.”

He said MSPs from Scotland – where in “every single local authority area last Thursday, the people voted to Remain part of Europe” – cannot be expected to give consent.

But Mr Salmond added: “The Scotland Act is quite clear there’s a Westminster override.

“It’s not a veto but Nicola is quite correct to say that you can withhold legislative consent.”

And for the benefit of further clarity, here is the relevant section of the Scotland Act 1998 (with Sewel convention amendment)

28 Acts of the Scottish Parliament.

(1)Subject to section 29, the Parliament may make laws, to be known as Acts of the Scottish Parliament.

(2)Proposed Acts of the Scottish Parliament shall be known as Bills; and a Bill shall become an Act of the Scottish Parliament when it has been passed by the Parliament and has received Royal Assent.

(3)A Bill receives Royal Assent at the beginning of the day on which Letters Patent under the Scottish Seal signed with Her Majesty’s own hand signifying Her Assent are recorded in the Register of the Great Seal.

(4)The date of Royal Assent shall be written on the Act of the Scottish Parliament by the Clerk, and shall form part of the Act.

(5)The validity of an Act of the Scottish Parliament is not affected by any invalidity in the proceedings of the Parliament leading to its enactment.

(6)Every Act of the Scottish Parliament shall be judicially noticed.

(7)This section does not affect the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to make laws for Scotland.

(8)But it is recognised that the Parliament of the United Kingdom will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. [added emphasis throughout]

So all they appear to be talking about is attempting to block Legislative Consent Motions – which is a convention, but not strictly necessary for the UK Parliament to act.

And as we saw with the National Crime Agency, in the case of the Northern Ireland Assembly, thanks to the previous Speaker, Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin, Legislative Consent ain’t what it used to be…

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  • Korhomme

    Constitutional lawyers are divided on this. Article 50 talks of “constitutional arrangements”, yet the UK doesn’t have a fully codified constitution. There are assorted bits, and there are conventions. Theresa cannot say quite so definitely that Scotland or NI could veto an Act to withdraw from the EU because it’s not clear whether that’s possible. Opinion pretending to be fact yet again.

  • Korhomme,

    Read it again. All the way to the end…

  • Declan Doyle

    So while the Northern Dail and the Scottish Parliament do all they can to block Brexit, London will ride over them, increasing the tension regarding Scottish Independence and Irish Unity. Parliament might be sovereign in this matter for sure but the people themselves have shown in the referendum that they can put a spanner in the works when needs be. The UK is disintegrating before your very eyes, anybody who thinks there will not be another Scottish referendum and a border poll here in Ireland in the coming years is simply deluded. The price of Brexit is the break up of the UK, it is as certain as night follows day.

  • Thomas Barber

    Its also the case Pete that Westminister is not legally bound to act on the results of the EU referendum either and if they do MP’s still have to vote on any bill being passed to leave the EU this is where individual MP’s can have their say and vote against the bill. Then it has to go through the House of Lords then the Queen, she can act in the interests of the people by refusing to give her consent. Leave is not over the line yet there are many hurdles to jump. The majority of MP’s would likely be against leaving and David Cameron has ruled out any possibility of another referendum plus no-one has the henries to invoke article 50. Things dont look so good for British politics ahead no matter what way it goes British democracy will be severely tested.

  • Korhomme

    I have. What did I miss?

  • Korhomme
  • Glenn

    If all the republican/nationalists here and in Scotland knew that the referendum could be overturned by them at Stormont and Holyrood, then why did they not tell me and I wouldn’t of bothered to go out and vote??? Or alternatively they could have stayed in the house watching the TV and not bothered to vote knowing what they knew.

    Then again why didn’t they tell us all and we could have all stayed in the house, and watched the TV and left it up to them to make our minds up for us.

    Can I now have a rerun of the GFA???

  • Keith

    I think it’s nonsense to suggest that the devolved assemblies can block this. Once the UK Prime Minister triggers Article 50, the UK will be out, probably within 2 years. All that the devolved assemblies can do is make things awkward for Parliament. They might be able to create a constitutional crisis, but the UK will still be out. The EU won’t be concerned about our local constitutional issues.
    In any case, Parliament is soverign and can fix this if they wish.

  • mickfealty

    Read Alex, then the last two paragraphs paying particular attention to the linked text?

  • Korhomme

    What “legislative consent” is seems to be a matter of (legal) opinion. It’s opinions.

    Article 50 says, “Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.” So exactly what are these constitutional requirements? Not opinions on what they might be, what exactly are they? I don’t see any clarity on this.

    So, the PM might think that Scotland’s and NI’s “legislative consent” isn’t needed. Surely this would provoke, firstly, a major legal process, one involving very heavyweight lawyers; and, secondly, a major constitutional and political storm with, you might expect, accusations of Westminster (ie the English) riding roughshod over Scotland and NI. That might be the last straw for Scotland as a part of the UK.

  • eamoncorbett

    Funny that , i always thought the people were soverign.

  • Glenn

    Maybe the assorted republican/nationalists can take it to the European court to overturn the decision.

  • Mister_Joe

    People can whistle in the dark for all their worth but the simple fact is that the UK, whatever the make up in the future, is going to leave the EU. There is no going back.

  • Declan Doyle

    You really do not understand tactics at all do u

  • Korhomme

    Your first link has nothing to say about the devolved institutions.

    Your second mentions them in passing, but it’s focus is on the Article 50 notification.

    It is up to the UK whether to make the notification and, if so, the timing of it. This in turn means that the notification may never be made.

    There is nothing – nothing at all – which the EU can do at law to force the UK to make that notification.

    Quite why you chose to share them here is a mystery…

  • “So exactly what are these constitutional requirements?”

    A UK-wide referendum.

  • “What did I miss?”


  • chrisjones2

    What European Court


  • chrisjones2

    Yeah …and they voted out

  • chrisjones2

    Do stop drooling at the possibility of trouble on the back of this. Its unedifying and juvenile …as well as wrong

  • chrisjones2

    If you think the Courts will try and overturn Parliament backed by a referendum please think again

  • Declan Doyle

    Are you absolutely positive that at the very least Scottish Independence will not flow from this mess? No, I didnt think so. It is astonishing that you didn’t see it coming.

  • Korhomme

    Let me try an analogy. I understand that there is no law requiring traffic to drive on the left. There is a “rule” in the Highway Code, and it is the “convention”. (And if I’m wrong, well Google won’t tell me.)

    So if there is no law, you cannot be prosecuted for driving on the left; instead, you get done for dangerous driving.

    Does a convention have the force of law? I really don’t know, I’m not a lawyer. A convention might not have the force of law, but it would be dangerous and stupid to ignore it.

    As for the “constitutional arrangements”, the legal fiction is that it is the “Queen in Parliament” which is sovereign. The “Queen in Parliament” is code for parliament, specifically the House of Commons. This referendum wasn’t legally binding, thus the HoC has the final say.

  • Korhomme

    The Courts apply law, not justice. This wasn’t a binding referendum.

  • Korhomme

    You’re on an entirely different page to the original post. In fact, you’re in agreement with the NI Secretary of State.

    But the referendum is done. Parliament will not obstruct it.

    Article 50 will, at some point, be triggered.

    A Legislative Consent Motion is also a very specific thing. See the link in the original post.

    It may come into play after the negotiations on the UK exit from the EU have been completed.

    But if the NI Assembly and the Scottish Parliament look like they will play silly buggers over it, the UK Parliament won’t even wait to ask.

  • ted hagan

    It’s all very well to say Westminster can override the Scotland Parliament over its ‘block’ on proceedings, but how ugly does that get? None of the Brexit brigade seems to have thought this out. It’s all wing and a prayer stuff and an absolute shambles. And please, no attempts at enlightenment from that twit Sammy Wilson.

  • ted hagan

    There may be no going back but we stare at turmoil and bitterness within the United Kingdom for years to come. Scottish independence looks a cert now.

  • ted

    The thing is that the Scottish parliament can’t put a ‘block’ on proceedings.

    They, like the NI Assembly, can only cause trouble for the implementation of the result of a UK-wide referendum.

    And only temporarily.

    So they can register their displeasure at the outcome of the referendum, and then deal with it.

  • ted hagan

    Yes I know that. Did you read my post? I’m saying can you imagine the ill-feeling and resentment that would cause in Scotland, which is the last thing that is needed? It would be the UK imposing its will on Scotland after rejecting what the Brexiteers saw as the overpowering influence of ‘undemocratic’ Brussels. Hypocrisy surely, whatever the legalities.

  • ted hagan

    And did anyone explain any of this before the referendum? No, of course not. The whole procedure, the whole dam,n thing is pathetic. I blame Cameron as much as I blame the Brexiteers

  • I read your comment…

  • Petronius

    Under UK law Parliament is sovereign. In a republic theoretically the people are sovereign.

  • rationalplan

    I’m not so sure that Scotland will go independent. The fundamentals over taxes and the currency have not changed. Scotland would still need to run it’s own currency for a while before adopting the Euro.

    What ever it says it needs heavy fiscal transfers from London, and it’s banks are too large for it’s economy and would not have the BofE behind it. There would be shrinkage.

    Scotland is currently in union with England and has been for centuries. It’s internal trade with England, dwarfs any trading it does with the EU. Does it want a border and currency difference with that.

    Studies show that borders (even the lightest ones) cost 25% of the trade potential between two regions.

    So the costs of going it alone are still very high.

    But maybe Scotland will decide that the heart will outweigh head and the pain will be worth it. Or like in England will decide that those who say there will be pain are establishment liars, ‘experts’ and it will all be easy.

  • Michael Fors

    36% of the electorate voted out.

  • Michael Fors

    1: Yes, the House of Commons still have to approve of any repeal of the legislation making the UK a part of the EU. The referendum result is not legally binding.
    2. The Lords can be overruled by the Commons.
    3. The Queen would never withhold assent without being advised to do so by the PM.

  • Reader

    Then I expect plenty of people would have been perfectly content with 37% voting in.

  • Thomas Barber

    So why did this bill not become law Michael –

    “The Military Actions Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill 1999”

  • eamoncorbett

    Are you saying that parliament can nullify the referendum result , I don’t think they can you know , even with a remain majority ,if a vote was taken members would be forced to abstain or else face a drastic constitutional crisis.

  • eamoncorbett

    Sammy failed to consult his farming community about the single payment .

  • Reader

    You’re suggesting the tail should wag the dog?
    This was a UK wide referendum, and Scotland is part of the UK. Yes, no doubt Scotland could have another chance to leave if the SNP thinks it is worth the risk of another failure, but that’s all.

  • Reader

    All these people with the cunning (but hopeless) plans based on Brexit. Wouldn’t they have been better employed running round the bookies betting on Brexit?

  • Declan Doyle

    The cunning plan to take Britain out of europe seemed to work

  • Reader

    So it wasn’t Farage and Boris after all.
    OK then – the UK is heading out of the EU, as per the Nicola/Gerry plan. But wait – how did they do it? And what next?

  • Declan Doyle

    Next what indeed.