March 14, 2018 / 7:50 PM / 6 months ago

UK's devolved nations see potential deal over post-Brexit power-sharing

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Scotland and Wales are within reach of a deal with the central government over power-sharing, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday, easing the pressure on the British government as it negotiates its exit from the European Union.

First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attend a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee, chaired by Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street in London March 14, 2018. Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool via Reuters

Speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May in London, Scotland’s First Minister struck a more positive tone than she had in recent weeks.

“The issues that remain between us are not insignificant but not insurmountable,” Sturgeon said. “With understanding a deal can be reached.”

The talks were aimed at unblocking a stalemate over post-Brexit powers as written into the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which is now going through the British parliament. The sides have yet to agree on how powers should be split up after Brexit.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones told reporters that a deal was “close” after the meeting.

First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attend a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee, chaired by Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street, in London, March 14, 2018. Daniel Leal-Olivas/pool via Reuters

Scotland and Wales have significant powers over health, education and agriculture, among other areas. Brexit will require a remapping of those powers, many of which are rooted in Britain’s EU membership.

Scotland and Wales do not have a veto over the withdrawal bill, but the spat threatens legal complications in the way Brexit affects the UK’s own jurisdiction. It has sown political discontent in and beyond nationalist circles in Scotland.

That threatens to further undermine May’s authority just as Brexit gets more complex.

May’s government says some powers should be kept in the national parliament temporarily to avoid divergence between Britain’s nations and its internal market while it is determining what the long-term set-up will be.

The Scottish and Welsh say that the government’s proposal does not respect the UK’s two-decade-old devolution agreement and want a guaranteed say in how power is shared, rather than to be told what to do.

The withdrawal bill is being debated in parliament so EU legislation can be “copied and pasted” into UK law and give continuity after Brexit day in March 2019.

Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary, editing by Larry King

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