Teresa May offers to involve Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in Brexit process

Leaders will be offered new official forum by Theresa May in which they can work with David Davis to help shape EU exit.

Theresa May will offer the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a “direct line” to the Brexit secretary, David Davis, to allow them to help shape the UK’s strategy for leaving the EU.

The prime minister is hosting talks on Monday at the joint ministerial committee (JMC) with the leaders of the UK’s devolved administrations for the first time since the Brexit vote on 23 June.

May will on Monday make the offer of a new official forum – which would be chaired by Davis and meet at least twice before the end of the year – to Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, the Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones, Northern Ireland’s first minister, Arlene Foster, and her deputy, Martin McGuinness, and insist “it is imperative that the devolved administrations play their part in making [Brexit negotiations] work”.
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By placing future discussions on a formal footing, May will say she is giving the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish leaders “the chance for them all to put forward their proposals on how to seize the opportunities presented by Brexit and deliver the democratic decision expressed by the people of the UK”.

But a thinktank has issued a stark warning to May ahead of the JMC, predicting that a “full-blown constitutional crisis” is imminent unless agreement on the key terms of Brexit can be reached between the government and the UK’s devolved administrations.

In a report published on Monday, the Institute for Government said unless all four leaders agree on the key elements of the UK’s negotiating position before the prime minister triggers article 50, formally starting the Brexit process, the result could be “a serious breakdown in relations between the four governments and nations of the UK”.

May is also expected to discuss the government’s position on the EU exit strategy at the JMC and insist that contrary to some speculation, no final decisions have been taken and how the UK leaves the EU will not boil down to a binary choice.

A Downing Street source said while the JMC had existed since devolution, the discussions over Brexit had provided a new impetus for its work.

“It will be the formal forum in which the devolved administrations feed in their ideas and make their case on what is important around Brexit,” the source said.

While the relevant secretaries of state for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would continue to speak for the devolved administrations in parliament, JMC meetings are “a chance for the devolved administration leaders as well,” the source said. “They do have a voice that needs to be heard and a role to play. And as the prime minister has repeatedly made clear, we’re leaving the EU as the UK.”