Call for strengthened Brexit dialogue

Russell sets out suggestions to new Minister of State.

The UK Government must work more closely with devolved governments as they embark on a second phase of negotiations with the EU in order to achieve best possible outcome, said Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell.

Following economic impact analysis, Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment which confirms remaining in the European Single Market and Customs Union would be best post-Brexit. The Scottish Government is calling for clarification and assurances from the UK Government on the meaningful participation of devolved governments in agreeing UK positions, as well as the urgent reconvening of the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations).

Full text from Minister of UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell to the newly appointed Rt Hon David Lidington MP as Minister of State (Cabinet Office) below.


Further to my letter to you last week, I am writing again to make some specific and urgent requests.

I am sure that you will agree that as the UK embarks on a second phase of negotiations with the EU, it is crucial that the UK Government and the devolved governments work closely together to achieve the best possible outcome. 

We understand that the UK Government is to set out its approach to the second phase of negotiations in mid-February. I would be grateful, therefore, if you could share further detail on how the UK Government is reaching agreement on its desired end state relationship with the EU, and when devolved administrations can expect to have an opportunity to participate in and influence the outcome of that discussion.

To better enable our genuine participation, I would also welcome your clarification on the anticipated sequencing for phase two of the negotiations with the EU, including key dates for subject specific discussions. This should be the driver for the prioritisation of discussions, including at the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations).

Whilst the Joint Agreement reached by the UK Government and EU in December was a welcome step forward, it is clear that the next phase of these negotiations will be significantly tougher than the first. It is essential that all Governments across the UK are fully involved in preparing for and delivering progress. Therefore there is, as I set out in my letter last week, an urgent need to convene a meeting of the JMC (EN) and agree joint working arrangements going forward.  A meeting of the JMC (Plenary) will also be essential in order to take a high level view of this matter. 

I remain concerned that as we move forward we have yet to agree mechanisms for joint working between the UK Government and Devolved Administrations which fully reflect the type of engagement and involvement envisaged in the terms of reference of the JMC (EN) and in subsequent meetings. I also see a serious risk that the important activity to agree joint working arrangements going forward will not be complete until after the UK has established its position on the end state relationship. That would not be acceptable.  We did of course reach a positive agreement at the meeting of the JMC (EN) on 12 December 2017 that there should be greater involvement and engagement of the devolved administrations in phase two of the negotiations.

I, therefore, hope that agreement on the detail of this can be rapidly reached and endorsed by the next meeting of the JMC (EN), so that such engagement can commence.

I will be in London on 29 and 30 January and would welcome discussion with you to progress these matters with urgency.  

I am copying this letter to the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis, the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance in the Welsh Government, Mark Drakeford and the Permanent Secretary for the Northern Ireland Executive, David Sterling.


Michael Russell


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