Boris Johnson has been accused of opening the barn door to legal challenges against Scottish food standards after Brexit by ruling out an independent process to resolve trade disputes.
The SNP has warned Scottish government policy could be over-riden after UK Ministers confirmed any Brexit trade disputes over returning EU powers will have to be fought out in the courts.
Johnson’s government ramped up tensions with the SNP administration in Edinburgh by confirming there will be no arbitration body to resolve disputes in the UK internal market which is due to replace EU Single Market rules in December.
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Johnson’s government is driving legislation for the internal market though the Commons this September in a rush with just one month of consultation after the Scottish government walked away from a previous set of talks.
So far Tory Ministers have refused to issue details despite calls from devolved governments and opposition MPs for a disputes panel to resolve disagreements as powers return from the EU.
But Business Minister Martin Callanan told the House of Lords on Wednesday: “I hope there won’t be any disputes, but if there were they would be legal disputes and the correct forum for resolving legal disputes is through the court system.
“We have no intention of setting up an alternative dispute resolution procedure when we have one of the best and most efficient court systems in the world to resolve disputes.”
Earlier this month Business Secretary Alok Sharma was asked four times to commit to such an arbitration panel when he introduced proposals for a UK internal market in the Common.
But Sharma dodged the questions, telling MPs his proposals would see “a power surge” for the devolved governments.
But Nicola Sturgeon’s has called the plans a “power grab” and Mike Russell, the Scottish Brexit Secretary, previously signalled the Scottish Government would not co-operate with internal market rules, setting the stage for a massive legal fight.
Kirsten Oswald MP, the SNP’s Westminster Deputy leader, said: “The confirmation – through the unelected House of Lords – that the UK government has no intention of meaningfully engaging with the devolved governments for an agreed dispute resolution system, is yet another sign of the Tories total disregard for the devolved nations.
“The Tory government has opened the door for companies with deep pockets to challenge Holyrood legislation if we try to maintain higher standards than Westminster post-Brexit – putting at risk our key industries with the threat of the imposition of lower standard goods and produce.
“Far from strengthening the devolved nations, the UK government’s Internal Market plans will enable the decisions of the Scottish Government to be overridden over devolved areas such as food and agriculture in Scotland.”