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Sturgeon vs Johnson: UK internal market could clash with WHO-supported Scottish rules

Business Secretary Alok Sharma earlier today revealed the publication of a White Paper proposing the setting up of a UK internal market post-Brexit. It will see measures which were previously managed by the EU return to the UK at the end of the year when the Brexit transition period expires.

The 160 policy areas including animal welfare, public procurement rules and environmental regulations will now go to one or more of the devolved administrations.

UK ministers have said the return of powers to the UK from Brussels will see the Northern Ireland administration receive responsibility in 157 of the 160 areas, Scotland in 111 and Wales in 70.

But Nicola Sturgeon’s administration says the terms will pose the “biggest threat to devolution” since Holyrood was established.

This could mean that Scottish government schemes such as free university tuition and minimum alcohol pricing could be under threat because of the principles of mutual recognition as regulations in one part of the UK are recognised in all the other nations.

 

The WHO, however, has praised Scotland’s policy on minimum unit pricing saying in a report, which analysed the links between alcohol pricing and health, that there was “robust evidence” for the scheme.

The Scottish government introduced the legislation in May 2018 after years of delays from legal challenges which sets a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol.

However, the scheme has not been implemented in England and Wales.

The WHO said that the scheme reduces health inequalities because it “effectively targets the cheap, high-strength products that drive these inequalities”.

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It describes initial evidence on MUP from Scotland health chiefs as “promising” in terms of cutting alcohol consumption, but stresses that over time “inflation may erode the effective level at which the MUP is set”.

Dr Peter Rice, a contributor to the WHO report, added: “We were satisfied with 50 pence as a starting point.

“But we do think – and this applies to any fiscal intervention – that it needs to keep up with wages and prices through some sort of automatic mechanism.”

Ian Blackford, leader of the SNP at Westminster said that the plans to create a new “internal market” across the UK once the Brexit transition period ends as a “blatant power grab” from Westminster and could force a reversal of many policies.

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He added to Express.co.uk: “The mechanism proposed would enable Westminster to override Scotland’s democratic decisions and impose its own policies, such as lower standards for food safety, animal and plant health, and environmental protections.

“This is the biggest threat to devolution since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999.”

The SNP have also visioned that an independent Scotland would play a “full role” in the international organisations that set the standards for trade, finance, health, labour relations and other key issues.

In response, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said that Scotland would be four times worse off than the rest of the UK.

He added in the Commons earlier today: “Without these necessary reforms, the way we trade goods and services between the home nations could be seriously impacted, harming the way we do business within our own borders.”

The White Paper added: “Any reduction in Scottish and Welsh GDP is likely to be 4 and more than 5 times larger respectively, in comparison to the overall UK GDP loss, given their high degree of integration with the rest of the UK.”



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