First Minister: ‘Radical reform of the UK’ needed to stop Westminster ‘centralising power’

First Minister Mark Drakeford. Picture by the Welsh Government.

Wales’ First Minister has called for a “radical reform of the UK” in response to what he sees as the UK Government “centralising power” and “undermining devolution”.

Mark Drakeford said that the UK should be made “authentically a voluntary association of nations where sovereignty is held by each nation and then pooled for common purposes”.

He added that Prime Minister Boris Johnson, unlike his predecessor Theresa May, had allowed intergovernmental relations to deteriorate during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a result it wasn’t clear, he said, why Boris Johnson considered freedom of movement for people in England to be more important than stopping the spread of the virus in Wales.

“Unfortunately, relations with the UK government are not as we would wish them to be,” Mark Drakeford said.

“Sometimes carelessly, and sometimes deliberately, in its desire to centralise power and remove obstacles in all branches of government to exercising that power, the UK government is undermining devolution.

“The constitutional settlement that has been supported by the people of Wales in two referendums is under serious threat.”

 

‘Share risk’

Mark Drakeford said that the Covid-19 pandemic had raised public awareness of the responsibilities of the UK government and the Welsh government.

“It has shown that Wales can, and should continue to, benefit from the decisions made by our devolved institutions, based on our circumstances, as well as wider measures across the UK,” he said.

“The association of nations in which we have been able to share risk and reward in these unprecedented times has also been to our advantage.

“To secure those advantages for the future we need radical reform of the UK, making it authentically a voluntary association of nations where sovereignty is held by each nation and then pooled for common purposes.

“Our proposals for joint intergovernmental working include a series of regular and predictable meetings at head of government, portfolio minister and official levels, to consider the UK response to the pandemic.

“This means co-ordinating decision-making and communications so that the public understand what rules apply to them and why some restrictions are the same across the UK and some are different.

“We need dialogue with the prime minister on why the freedom of movement of people from England is more important, in his view, than the protection of people in Wales from the virus.”

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