Theresa May Faces Another Brexit Battle With Scotland and Wales

Theresa May

Photographer: Will Oliver/Pool via Bloomberg

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for Brexit face another potential legal hurdle as the country’s highest court rules on whether some powers from the European Union that are due to return to the U.K. should go to the administrations in Scotland and Wales.

Months of wrangling with the semi-autonomous governments about whether policies ranging from environmental protection to agriculture and transport should be decided in London or in Edinburgh and Cardiff after Brexit have failed to yield an agreement. Attorney General Jeremy Wright passed the issue to the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Judges will look at legislation passed in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly that would give lawmakers stronger devolved powers. Wright hopes the court will rule that the bills are unconstitutional. He has said the government will drop the litigation if negotiations resolve the matter.

A majority of Scots voted against Brexit and the nationalist leadership in Edinburgh has called May’s current plans a "power grab" that would leave it with less autonomy. While a spokeswoman for Wright’s office said May’s landmark legislation -- the EU Withdrawal Bill -- wouldn’t be affected, it provides another headache for the British government in early June.

“It shows how clumsily the government has handled this and it’s shaping up to be a big conflict,” said Roger Awan-Scully, professor of politics at Cardiff University.

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