European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 – loss of control of Scottish food standards – Post Brexit
The UK Government decided that all powers currently exercised at the EU level would transfer from Brussels to Westminster and included control over fields of competence presently devolved to Scotland such as the environment, agriculture and fisheries. This prompted accusations from the Scottish government that the Bill was a “naked power grab”.
In defence of its actions, the UK Government took the view that the current responsibilities of the devolved institutions were limited anyway by EU law and there would be no reduction in the powers of the devolved bodies if those issues were currently dealt with by the EU were handled at UK level.
The Bill also enabled Westminster to alter retained EU law in future, with the law as amended remaining outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament and included a number of caveats stating that decision-making powers returning from the EU would be allocated within the UK “in a way that works ensuring that no new barriers to living and doing business in the UK are created”.
The UK Government also gave notice of its intention to increase decision-making powers to devolved institutions in time, though the Bill was silent on when and how a further devolution of ‘repatriated’ powers would take place, or which powers would be repatriated but it did state that powers would not be devolved in a way that would hamper the UK’s ability to enter into trade agreements.
The foregoing legislation included modifying the aims and outputs of Food Standards (Scotland) (FSS) a non-ministerial entity that was put in place by the Scottish government in 2015 to ensure that information and advice on food safety and standards, nutrition and labelling were independent, consistent, evidence-based and consumer-focused.
With its primary concern being consumer protection the agency was further tasked with making sure that food was safe to eat, ensuring consumers knew what they were eating and improving nutrition. With that in mind, its vision was to deliver food and drink environment in Scotland that benefitted and protected consumers. FSS did develop policies and was a trusted source of advice protecting consumers through the delivery of a robust regulatory and enforcement strategy.
The Bill amended the Scotland Act 1998 forbidding the Scottish Parliament from modifying “retained EU law”. but empowered Westminster to alter retained EU laws in future.
Essentially, the effect was to ensure that powers currently outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament because of EU law constraints would remain outside its competence.
Comment: Food import contracts post-Brexit will be compiled negotiated and agreed upon by UK government ministers. Another example of Westminster’s colonial control over Scotland.