Call on Welsh Government to resist new ‘power grab’ Brexit bill that ‘makes a mockery of devolution’

Boris Johnson. Picture by World Economic Forum (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The UK Government is under fire this morning after critics said its new Brexit legislation made a mockery of devolution and also risked the collapse of trade negotiations with Brussels.

The bill, due to be published on Wednesday, is expected to force Wales and Scotland to accept whatever new standards on food, environment and animal welfare are agreed by the UK Government.

It is also expected to eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs, according to the Financial Times.

A source told the FT that the move could “clearly and consciously” undermine the agreement on Northern Ireland that Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed last October to avoid a return to a hard border in the region.

Plaid Cymru today described the bill as a “power grab” and said that the Labour Welsh Government must not co-operate with the Westminster Government on the Internal Market Bill until it “fundamentally” changes its approach.

Last week, Wales’ Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles had slammed as “completely unacceptable” the UK Government’s refusal to allow him to see their draft Internal Market Bill before it is published.

“I received no assurances we’d get it pre-publication – completely unacceptable for legislation with the potential to upend devolution settlement,” he said.

Scotland’s constitution minister, Mike Russell MSP, has also said that “the Scottish Government could not, and would not, accept any such plans. Nor would we co-operate with them.”

 

‘Laughable’

Writing to Welsh Government Minister for European Transition Jeremy Miles, Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for the Economy Helen Mary Jones MS said that the UK Government was acting in “bad faith”.

Ms Jones said the Welsh Government should take the same approach unless the Westminster Government “fundamentally” changed how it was operating in relation to this Bill.

“This is a power grab. It is as simple as that,” she said. “From the laughably short amount of time given for consultation, the fact that this legislation was not proposed jointly with the devolved nations, to the harmful proposals contained within the White Paper itself this entire saga makes a mockery out of devolution.

“The Scottish Government have already said they will no longer co-operate with the Westminster Government until it changes their approach. It’s time Welsh Government showed it was equally willing to defend devolution.

“Do right by the people of Wales. Do right by devolution. Stand up to Westminster and demand that Wales be given the power that it needs to stand on its own two feet.”

No deal?

Boris Johnson suggested that the UK Government was aiming for a no deal Brexit on Sunday by saying that if an agreement is not reached by Oct. 15, both sides should “accept that and move on”.

If the sticking point of fisheries and state aid cannot be resolved and a deal agreed, Britain would have a trading relationship with the bloc like Australia’s, which would be “a good outcome”, Johnson said.

The planned legislation, as reported by the Financial Times, would ratchet up tension between the UK and the EU by attempting to undo some of the elements of the Withdrawal Agreement signed earlier this year, including those relating to the border between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

The move was condemned by parties on both sides of the Irish border.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who played a key role in negotiating the withdrawal agreement and Northern Ireland protocol, said on Twitter that the reported move “would be a very unwise way to proceed.”

Senior members of Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein and SDLP parties, the region’s two largest Irish nationalist groups, also criticised the British government’s plan, as reported by the newspaper.

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