The EU Commission’s vice president Maros Sefcovic will arrive later today for emergency talks with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove. Government sources revealed to Express.co.uk, the Prime Minister and his team are “disappointed” Scotland did not agree with the Internal Market Bill which aims to give more powers to devolved nations but stressed the UK is negotiating with the EU as one nation with Mr Johnson at the helm.
The Prime Minister is facing growing pressure after the European Commission called for urgent talks with Britain over Mr Johnson’s plans to override key elements of the EU withdrawal agreement with the Bill.
The Scottish Government has hit out at Mr Johnson for ignoring pleas for Scottish officials to be involved in the discussions with Brussels.
Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP also claimed “high promises that were made” in the 2016 referendum had not been delivered under Mr Johnson.
Mr Ewing told Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee on Wednesday: “Our disappointment is that the high promises that were made in the referendum haven’t been delivered and the negotiations that started many months ago haven’t actually achieved anything.”
He highlighted fishing as a key area of issue adding: “My officials are effectively being asked to work with a blindfold on.
“Perhaps if our offer of participation in negotiations had been accepted, more progress might have been made by now.”
When asked whether Scotland would seek a “warmer” relationship with the EU if a Brexit trade deal isn’t reached, Scottish Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said: “We are taking the action we can to prepare for this worst-case scenario.”
A Government source told Express.co.uk the “UK was negotiating with the EU” stressing Boris Johnson’s team was “annoyed” with how ministers in Edinburgh were behaving.
The source said: “We’re negotiating with the EU as one nation and working with all devolved nations in this process.
“It’s disappointing that Scotland don’t agree with the Internal Market Bill but it’s essential to protect the UK.”
Another added: “Scotland is seeking to divide not work as a team.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged the Scottish government will “fiercely resist this attack on the powers of our national parliament” following the tabling of the UK Internal Market Bill.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Far from returning powers to Scotland, it is now crystal clear that Brexit means taking back control from Holyrood and taking control away from the Scottish people.”
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She also vowed the Scottish government will “fight tooth and nail against this shameless bid to reverse the devolution of power”.
She said: “The UK Government are not only set to break international law – it is clear they are now set to break devolution.
“The Tories’ proposed Bill for a so-called UK internal market is an abomination.
“It is a naked power grab which would cripple devolution.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs Michael Russell suggested legal action had not been ruled out over the new Brexit bill.
Ms Sturgeon’s remarks were echoed by EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen who said she was “very concerned” following the tabling in Parliament of the UK Internal Market Bill, which ministers have admitted will breach international law.
As talks continued in London on a post-Brexit free trade agreement, she said such actions would “undermine trust” and called on the Prime Minister to honour his past commitments.
Mr Johnson argued the legislation is necessary to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if the two sides are unable to agree on a free trade deal before the current Brexit transition period runs out at the end of the year.
He was forced to defend the legislation in the Commons however stressing the laws provided a “legal safety net” to protect against “extreme or irrational interpretations” of the Northern Ireland provisions of the agreement which could lead to the creation of “a border down the Irish Sea”.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson said his priority was to preserve the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland peace process.
“To do that we need a legal safety net to protect our country against extreme or irrational interpretations of the protocol which could lead to a border down the Irish Sea in a way, that I believe, would be prejudicial to the interests of the Good Friday Agreement and prejudicial to the interests of peace in our country,” he said.
“That has to be our priority.”
The EU Commission’s vice president Maros Sefcovic said he was seeking an urgent meeting of the joint EU-UK committee on the Brexit withdrawal agreement to enable Mr Johnson’s team to “elaborate” on their plan which is expected to take place today.
Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Mr Sefcovic said he had raised his concerns in a phone call on Tuesday with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove – his co-chair on the committee.
He added: “The withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation and we expect the letter and the spirit of the withdrawal agreement will be fully respected. I think on that we have to be very, very clear.”