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Brexit power grab act ‘damaged relations’ between Westminster and Wales, report finds

31 Mar 2021 3 minutes Read
The Senedd building. Westminster. Picture by Maurice (CC BY 2.0).

An act which saw the Welsh Government begin legal action against the UK Government “damaged relations” between them, a report has found.

The Internal Market Act, passed in December despite the Senedd refusing to give consent to the bill, took away powers that had previously been devolved.

A report by the House of Lords common frameworks scrutiny committee says that Brexit has put “significant strain” on the relationships and calls for a reset in intergovernmental relations.

On the Internal Market Act, it says it could constrain the ability of the devolved administrations to regulate effectively in areas of devolved competence.

Baroness Andrews, chair of the common frameworks scrutiny committee, said: “Common frameworks are a crucial legacy of leaving the EU that has too often been overlooked.

“They create the processes necessary for day-to-day co-operation across the UK in areas such as food safety, farming and the environment.

“During the committee’s inquiry, we found widespread support for common frameworks across sectors and in every part of the UK.

“However, the UK Internal Market Act has clearly damaged relations with the devolved administrations and could severely compromise the common frameworks programme.

“We also have concerns about transparency and how the frameworks will relate to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“While the relationships between the UK Government and devolved administrations are acknowledged to be severely strained, we believe that the collaborative approach of common frameworks should be used as a model to reset UK intergovernmental relations and build a co-operative Union.”

‘Bypass’

Last week ministers from three nations joined forces to call on Westminster to stop by-passing the devolved governments.

Welsh Government Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans, Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister, Conor Murphy and Scottish Minister for Trade, Innovation and Public Finance, Ivan McKee, issued a joint statement following a tri-lateral meeting.

They demanded that the UK government enter into meaningful engagement and respect the “democratically agreed” devolved arrangements.

They also criticised Westminster for taking power over funding projects away from them with the so-called Levelling Up and Community Renewal Funds.

The UK Government was using the powers in the Internal Market Act, which was slammed as an “attack on democracy” by the Welsh Government, to take control over funding away.

The ministers say that “denying” them “any meaningful input, harms the effectiveness of these funds”.

The statement says: “As Ministers in the Devolved Governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, we wish to register our shared concerns about the UK Government’s decision to bypass democratically agreed devolution arrangements to deliver the Levelling Up and Community Renewal Funds announced at Budget 2021.

“We share the aim to spread inclusive economic growth more widely and take the opportunity to simplify systems post EU exit.

“For that reason, we believe monies to replace EU funds should be allocated in full through the Devolved Governments and successful structures that already exist specifically to deliver economic development to address the needs and opportunities of the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland rather than through a new, separate layer of bureaucracy.

“The UK Government ignored the Devolved Governments’ efforts and requests to input to the development process for these funds for almost three years and is now using powers under the UK Internal Market Act to bypass us completely.

“It is ignoring our respective devolution arrangements, delivering funding to meet Whitehall’s priorities rather than those of the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

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