Westminster wants to use Brexit to relegate Wales back to a Little England annexe

Hywel Williams

Hywel Williams, Arfon MP

The United Kingdom consists of four countries, not just one. Democracy requires and values all voices, not just one.

Devolution demands that all countries within the UK have a say in their respective futures, not just one.

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill seeks to undermine and reverse twenty years of the existence and development of devolution and our national parliament – the National Assembly.

This Bill, if enacted, will take us back to a position where we can no longer make decisions for our own country – forever relegated to the Little England annex.

Clause 11 of the Withdrawal Bill, due to be debated tomorrow, places new restrictions on the National Assembly that will prevent it from legislating in areas due to be repatriated from the EU.

This will apply even when those areas are already devolved, such as agriculture and the environment.


The European Union operates on the principle of powers being exercised as close to the citizen as possible.

That principle does not exist in Westminster. Wales relies solely on the devolution settlement – the recently passed Wales Act 2017 – to determine where powers lie.

Even then, Westminster can override any decisions made in Wales.

Allowing Westminster to intercept these powers in devolved areas that would otherwise be passed straight to the National Assembly, will normalise direct Westminster-rule once again, undermining Welsh sovereignty and setting a dangerous precedent.

The UK’s Prime Minster has, by the way, pledged never to “devolve and forget” again.

Plaid Cymru has tabled amendments to the Withdrawal Bill so that it respects the Welsh devolution settlement. They will be debated in the House of Commons tomorrow.

Our amendments adapt the restrictions placed on the National Assembly in the Bill so that they are only applicable to Westminster responsibilities, allowing Wales to continue to legislate freely in its devolved fields.

Our amendments differ to those tabled by the Welsh and Scottish Governments. Rather than deleting the whole clause, our amendments acknowledge that there will be a difference between certain repatriated powers that rightfully reside with the Assembly and those that fall under Westminster’s areas of responsibility.

We are playing by the rules. We expect Westminster to do the same.

Labour confusion

On the 14th of November, Plaid Cymru forced a vote in Westminster on an amendment to ensure that the EU Withdrawal Bill could not be signed without all four countries in the UK agreeing to it – a vote to give Wales an equal say.

Despite the Labour Party being the ruling party in Wales, only one solitary maverick Labour MP voted to support our amendment and the legitimacy and authority of the National Assembly for Wales.

The rest not only didn’t support us, but didn’t bother voting at all.

This sadly reflects the Labour Party’s reluctance to take any responsibility for Brexit. They are more comfortable shouting from their opposition seats in Westminster than taking any real responsibility and steering our country in the right direction.

In the National Assembly, all woes and discontent are deflected back at the Tory Westminster Government, and yet here they are content in leaving our country’s future in Tory hands.

The Labour party’s confused position on Brexit was further exemplified when Jeremy Corbyn whipped his party to vote against an amendment tabled by one of their own MPs, to allow the UK to remain a part of the Customs Union.

The amendment was defeated – a green light for trade barriers to be erected between us and our closest trading partners.

Westminster-rule has not served Wales well. While the Labour Party cry outrage at Westminster’s actions, their own actions, or lack of, cry louder.

MPs will have an opportunity tomorrow to stop this Westminster power-grab.

If all opposition parties turn up to vote and vote together in the interest of the devolved countries, we can stop this encroachment on Welsh sovereignty, and put all four UK countries on an equal footing.

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  1. bravo! Plaid needs a leadership that says and campaigns similarly in the Senedd.

  2. Graham John Hathaway

    With so much spinning, deceit, confusion and negligence in the face of unending quarrelling and division in all Political parties, it wouldn’t surprise me that the bottom will fall out of sky, and we will be washed up for a century. Until and unless Wales realises that only it’s organic Party in Plaid Cymru that will put undiluted interests of Wales above all else, then we deserve the ugly consequences of a dingle dangle on the end of England. I feel sorry for our Plaid representatives in the face of a mask of embrace but hiding a dagger in the back to our future as proud Nation. We have been warned, it’s time to grow up and face up, or else.
    As for our Senedd, then the same applies.

  3. If Wales wants independence why does it not get organised and will it to Happen
    “ If you will it it is no dream “ Herzl the father of Zionism . Israel born later

  4. Gwylon Phillips

    Fel arfer mae’r Blaid Lafur yn chwarae gêm gyda Ewrop a Chymru. Dydy Corbyn erioed wedi bod yn gefnogol i Ewrop na datganoli. Mae Llafur yn gryf yma ond yn wan yn yr Alban ac felly mae Corbyn yn fodlon gweithio gyda’r SNP ond nid gyda’r Blaid yng Nghymru. Mae’r call yn gwybod bod Brexit yn wallgo ond mae pleidiau Llundain yn chwarae gêm gyda dyfodol Cymru.

  5. “The European Union operates on the principle of powers being exercised as close to the citizen as possible”

    This is blatantly untrue. The EU commission, who have ultimate power on new EU legislation, is appointed not democratically elected. They are dictated to and influenced by the huge corporate lobbying powers that Brussels is infested by. Countries are not represented in the EU Parliament but forced into homogenous meaningless broad purpose parties that have nothing to do with national interests and only add to the bureaucratic sludge of the fledging EU . When was the last time any citizen had any meaningful opportunity to talk to their MEP and ask them to represent their personal or national interests in the EU anyhow? Who except for a few EU Europhile anoraks even know who their MEP is and what the hell they do?

  6. Jonathan Edwards Sir Benfro

    Lets compare Wales with Ireland.
    In Wales Plaid Cymru puts MPs in Westminster. Liz Saville-Roberts, for example has played a good game recently. But the Plaid MPs in Westminster can only every achieve one thing. They can organise amendments and votes which have one principal outcome. This game plan is good at showing how Labour repeatedly betrays Wales. But how many fans understand this game or even turn up to watch it? Plaid needs another game plan for Westminster.
    The Sinn Fein one. No, I don’t mean nods and winks to armed violence. I have a strong suspicion that this is the only language the English understand. But I am not recommending this aspect of Sinn Fein’s tactics. There has to be
    (1) a general approach that is focussed, ruthless even. It has be determined and willing to rock the boat.
    (2) The detail that must change is: simplify the aims of Plaid, focus on nation-building for all Wales. Devolve the easily devolvable: courts, police, tax-collecting, railways – all the Silk Agenda. And turn the Plaid in-house media into Wales’ new media with bite.
    Why we do not learn more from the Irish, I don’t understand

  7. Plaid needs to ramp up on its assertive stances against the Westminster government, regardless of whether it’s Tory or Labour, and replicate its willingness to adopt a hostile,adversarial and questioning stance at the talking shop down the Bay. Currently too much mateyness with occasional dash of challenge is well short of the level of heat needed to make Jones and his mates feel uncomfortable.

  8. P.S even the resident buffoon Hamilton is starting to look more at ease with the task of digging into Carwyn’s ribs. ARTD does so full of bluster ( piss & wind variety) while Leanne behaves like she’s in a stormy up & down domestic relationship with CJ.

  9. Gruff is spot on with his analysis of the democratic deficit at the very heart of the EU and its undeniable distance from the actual citizens it is meant to serve. It is completely in thrall to big corporations and banks. And we are meant to grieve the fact that we are leaving this failing institution?

    Plaid Cymru are in a weak position having ended up in the wrong side of the result last year, and not really giving the impression that they have accepted that the majority of the electors of Wales did not share their myopic adherence to the EU.

    Having said all that, Hywel Williams is undoubtedly right in his assessment that Westminster are planning a power grab when powers over agriculture, environment and fisheries are repatriated post Brexit.

    Tomorrow”s amendmemts are to be supported therefore, although I do not hold out much hope for success at Westminster. The real crunch will come when the EU Withdrawal Bill goes before Y Senedd in Cardiff. Already, Labour have indicated that they will support Steffan Lewis:s Continuity Bill, which would ensure that Wales retains and increases its powers in the above mentioned fields post Brexit.

    It’s a perfectly logical and understandable position ; to say yes we accept the democratic result of the Referendum, but that people here in Wales did not vote to lose any existing powers.

    That will be the acid test for Theresa May’s chaotic government. Will they respect the democratic voice of Wales on this matter?

    One suspects not. But, in that case, things will start to get very interesting. After 18 years of torpor and inertia, Welsh democracy may have an opportunity to find itself at last.

  10. In some ways this article makes good points, but it left me thinking that what is being advocated is a return to the post-devolution liberal-left/Guardian/BBC cozy consensus of the fiction of the four (sic) nations of the UK being on an equal footing. Since as said, Westminster could still overrule the devolved parliaments even in devolved matters, the UK parliament (i.e. the de facto England parliament) is in no sense on an equal footing with the devolved parliaments.
    The devolution institutions in Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Northern Ireland do not have the same powers, since the Scottish parliament has somewhat more powers than the Welsh, Northern Ireland has special conditions with “power sharing” etc. and Cornwall’s “devolution deal” is a fraud since it doesn’t really devolve anything.
    Devolution is a safety value to direct activity of political groups in the minority nations in such a way that it isn’t harmful to the Establishment’s overall leading position, devolution can be used to co-opt potential opposition forces and make them part of the system rather than in challenge to it.

    • Graham John Hathaway

      The current devolution settlement is inadequate and confusing. Rights of government on Welsh matters will always be subject to over riding. Ye who pays the piper calls the tune. If the allocation of grant remains with piper then all is within. You can only spend what’s allocated. The case is illustrated with the governance of the NHS. Wales often derided from the despatch box at WM, for poor admin of services, knowingly crowing at their control of all things in Wales by default. It so happens it’s wrong and manipulative. In short, a whiff of colonial outpouring.

      Until we have the power to control our own finances, tax and spend of all fiscal matters, as illustrated in previous contributions, we will be subject to such nonsense. Culturally ignoble, and politically insufficient.

      There will come a time when we will call out the dismissive WM, and seek a greater leverage over management of our affairs in a grown up society.

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