18:53 GMT20 April 2021
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    Questions over the powers of devolved governments and staffing shortages remain key points of concern to the body monitoring Britain’s divorce from Europe.

    The British House of Commons has published its assessment of the United Kingdom's progress in negotiating its exit from the European Union and its effects on Britain's agricultural industries and capacity to negotiate new trading agreements in a report by its cross-party Committee of Public Accounts.

    Members of the Committee gave particular scrutiny to the Departments of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and International Trade which it concluded were disproportionately affected by questions surrounding the return of EU powers to the devolved governments of the UK, especially in relation to Scotland.

    ​Edinburgh claims at least 100 executive powers, many relating to agricultural and environmental policy, currently exercised by Brussels should be returned to Scotland when the UK completes its exit from the Union and has accused the Conservative Government in Westminster of attempting to reverse the process of devolution throughout the country and recentralize power in London.

    With respect to Britain's International Trade Policy, the report warns of severe staffing shortages in the Civil Service and Foreign and Commonwealth Office. With less than a year until its formal exit from the EU begins, Britain has to "roll-over" at least 40 trade agreements, turning them into bilateral arrangements rather than ones struck through the EU Customs Union. Doing so will also require renegotiation of their terms, negotiations which the Committee warned the service was not equipped to deal with.

    "The Department said it would ideally have some more experienced negotiators but also expressed a preference for "young, enthusiastic, talented, ready to go" staff, over "tired, old, re-used negotiators". The Department told us that it now aims to develop the next level down from the Chief Trade Negotiator with a mix of recruitment and training existing civil servants," the report's authors said of the input received from the Department of International Trade.    

    At present it has the manpower to negotiate three new trade agreements simultaneously and "roll-over" only a small proportion of the current 40 EU-related arrangements.


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    devolution, executive power, trade agreements, international trade, Brexit, House of Commons Select Committee, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, House of Commons, Europe, Scotland, United Kingdom
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