The First Minister Mark Drakeford has slammed the UK Government Internal Market Bill as an “enormous power grab” which the Welsh Government will oppose “every step of the way”.
He lent his voice to a chorus of disapproving voices, including his own Brexit Minister, Labour MPs, a Conservative Member of the Senedd, the Scottish Government and Plaid Cymru.
The bill published today will give the UK Government new spending powers that will enable them to ignore the Welsh Government’s wishes and directly fund projects in Wales.
It will also force Wales and Scotland to accept whatever new standards on food, environment and animal welfare are agreed by the UK Government in post-Brexit trade deals.
“This is an enormous power grab – undermining powers that have belonged to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for over 20 years,” Mark Drakeford said.
“This Bill will do more to hasten the break-up of the Union than anything else since devolution began. We’ll oppose it every step of the way.”
Yesterday the Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles had said the Internal Market bill is “an attack on democracy” which will “sacrifice the future of the union by stealing powers from devolved administrations”.
Holyrood’s Brexit secretary, Mike Russell, has already pledged the Scottish government will not consent to the bill, while Miles said his administration would “do everything we can to challenge the power grab and the race to the bottom which this bill represents”.
Plaid Cymru meanwhile has called it “the single biggest assault on devolution since its creation.”
“History may remember this as the day devolution died,” Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said today. “Let’s make sure it’s also seen as the day Independence became inevitable.”
Earlier, Conservative Senedd Member David Melding resigned from the Welsh Conservative front bench citing his concern about the Internal Market Bill.
He said that he had believed that the union was in danger and that the publishing of the bill had done “nothing to lessen my anxieties”.
“Indeed they have been gravely aggravated by the decisions made in the last few days by the Prime Minister,” he said.
However, the UK Government’s Scottish Secretary Alister Jack denied that the Internal Market Bill would water down devolution.
“Absolutely not, we’re strengthening devolution,” he said. “We are bringing a power surge to Scotland, more than 100 new powers, we’re not taking a single power away and I’d invite the honourable lady to name one that we are.”