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1 November 2016

Hilary Benn urged to hold Brexit select committee hearings in devolved nations

MPs from devolved nations have demanded representation. 

By Julia Rampen

Representatives of the devolved nations may have found tea at Downing Street less than fruitful, but they have now spotted a new entrance into Brexit negotiations.

MPs from the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the rival Northern Irish parties the DUP and SDLP, have written to the new chair of the Brexit committee, Hilary Benn, demanding a platform.

In the letter, the MPs call for evidence sessions to be held in each of the devolved nations. 

Despite “different views on specific issues”, the MPs said there was “a common interest” in ensuring devolved administrations were respected.

It stated: “The Committee on Exiting the EU will be crucial to ensuring that there is scrutiny of how the Prime Minister is implementing her commitment to involve the devolved administrations and of the discussions that she has with them.

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“We therefore write to you to ask you to ensure that the new Committee will examine these important issues, including by holding evidence sessions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

The letter was signed by the SNP MPs Joanna Cherry and Peter Grant, Plaid Cymru’s Jonathan Edwards, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson and the SDLP’s Mark Durkan. 

Select committees are made up of cross-party MPs and conduct inquiries which can put pressure on the government to act, and the newly-formed Brexit select committee is likely to be one of the most crucial in the years ahead. 

Nevertheless, it may be the devolved administrations themselves that form the biggest obstacle to Brexit.

This is not just because Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to Remain, but because the parliaments were set up after the UK joined the EU, and were created in the framework of EU legislation. 

Dr Jo Murkens, a law professor from the London School of Economics, told the Scottish Affairs Committee in September: “If I can put it bluntly, the EU is what has been keeping the United Kingdom together.”