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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