CONCERNS that devolved administrations like Scotland could take advantage of post-Brexit changes to “distort” UK competition have been alleviated after many experts explained how the Government’s bill could prevent this.
Fears the SNP could use advantages to pull investment from one part of the UK to another have emerged following the anticipated changes to state aid rules. The concern was highlighted by Conservative MP Antony Higginbotham, who questioned experts over whether the Scottish Government might do something to “distort competition” in the UK and across the rest of the EU. Shanker Singham, CEO of trade consultancy firm Competere, explained how Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new Brexit bill could avoid this.
He told the MP: “There are provisions in the Internal Market Bill which are quite interesting in this respect.
“They do apply to market distortions in the devolved nations that have effects on the conditions of competition.
“So I think that’s quite an advanced set of obligations.
“We certainly don’t want a situation where the devolved nations are using tax advantages or other forms of intervention or government distortion to pull investment from one place to another.”
Mr Singham continued: “That is quite counter-productive to a UK internal market.
“So I think those provisions are in the Internal Market Bill, and I think that’s a place to build.”
Cambridge University Professor of European Union and Labour Law, Catherine Barnard, agreed there were provisions in the bill to prevent this.
She also revealed the Government could “keep an eye” on what the devolved administrations are doing by regarding the issue as a “reserved matter”.
The SNP have accused the UK Government’s Internal Market proposals of being a “power grab” by Westminster.
Proposals by the UK Government will see powers in at least 70 policy areas previously controlled by the EU flow instead to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
But the plans will also mean that regulatory standards in one part of the UK must be automatically accepted in others, with the rules overseen by a newly created body.
The devolved governments in Scotland and Wales say this could leave them unable to veto UK Government decisions, such as on chlorinated chicken or genetically modified foods.
Drew Hendry, the SNP’s business spokesperson, said: “There have been so many promises made on things like food standard regulations post-Brexit. Those promises were inherent in the devolution settlement.
“These areas are devolved areas of responsibility so anything you take away from that is a power grab. That is a change, a native change, for Scotland.
“So whilst we were part of the EU, we complied with the EU law, but on the understanding that those powers, when they were returned through Brexit, would come to the Scottish Parliament.
“It’s just as clear as day that this is a wanton power grab from Scotland.”