THE Scottish Government has formally urged Holyrood to reject the UK Government’s post-Brexit trade Bill, calling it a “defining moment” for the constitution.

SNP ministers said the UK Internal Market Bill should be refused legislative consent as it was “fundamentally incompatible with the principles and practices of devolution”.

By breaching international law, the Bill would also be incompatible with the responsibility of Scottish Ministers under the ministerial code, the Government said.

SNP constitution secretary Mike Russell said that if Westminster pressed ahead with the Bill despite Scottish objections it would "demonstrate beyond all doubt that the UK Government does not believe the UK to be a partnership of equals".

The Bill is designed to harmonise trade across the UK after the end of the Brexit transition period this year, and make it easier for the UK to strike international trade deals.

The UK Government has said it will see a huge repatriation of powers previously exercised by Brussels to Holyrood.

But critics say it is a ‘power grab’ which tramples the decision-making powers of the devolved administrations, forcing them to mirror whatever rules and standards are adopted in England. 

The Bill has also generated huge controversy by proposing to empower UK ministers to overwrite parts of the Withdrawal Agreement treaty signed by the EU and UK.

This would, the UK Government admits, break international law in a “very specific and limited way” in regard to provisions for Northern Ireland.

The prospect of breaking international law saw Boris Johnson’s top legal expert, Lord Keen QC, resign as Advocate General for Scotland.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and House speaker Nancy Pelosi have also warned the US Congress would reject a UK-US trade deal because of the Bill.

Because the Bill involves devolved powers, it has triggered the Sewel Convention, which says the UK Government will not “normally” legislate in devolved Scottish matters without Holyrood’s explicit consent.

However the Scottish Government today laid a legislative consent memorandum at Holyrood which styrongly recommended MSPs should withhold that consent.

It warned the Bill: 

-undermines both the devolution settlement and agreed ways of working across the UK following EU exit

-risks more uncertainty and confusion for business and consumers

-encourages harmful deregulation without democratic accountability or proper Parliamentary scrutiny

-explicitly gives UK Ministers wide new powers in currently devolved areas of economic support and allows for breaches of international law

With a majority of MSPs already opposed to the Bill’s current provisions, it tees up a formal vote at Holyrood, which the UK Government will almost certainly disregard and pass the Bill through Westminster without the consent.

Mr Russell said: “This is a defining moment that will determine both the future of the Scottish Parliament and whether or not the UK can be described as a partnership of equal nations.

“UK Government ministers have accepted the Bill will break international law. It would be equally outrageous if they decided also to break the constitutional convention that the Westminster Parliament does not legislate in devolved areas without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

“The UK’s established constitutional rules mean that the consent of the Scottish Parliament is required for the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill to proceed.

"If the Parliament refuses to grant consent then that should kill the Bill stone dead. It will demonstrate beyond all doubt that the UK Government does not believe the UK to be a partnership of equals.

“This Bill opens the door to a post-Brexit race to the bottom and will mean democratic decisions of the Scottish Parliament on public health, environmental standards, food standards and a range of other key areas can be over-ridden.

“The Scottish Government will ask the Parliament to make a decision on whether to grant consent next month and the memorandum we have published today sets out in detail why we could never recommend the Parliament agrees that its powers should be eroded so fundamentally.”

The Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations are also expected to object to the Bill.

Scottish Tory constitution spokesman Dean Lockhart said: "The UK internal market bill protects 545,000 jobs across Scotland and is essential for our businesses who trade with the rest of the UK.

"The SNP have yet to explain why they would recommend putting over half a million jobs and livelihoods in Scotland at risk with their opposition to this bill.

"This legislation is vital in order to ensure that Scotland’s links with its most important market are not only maintained but can be built upon going forward.”