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Significant consequences for Wales from Northern Ireland deal, says Labour MS

01 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill arriving at the Grand Central Hotel, Belfast, where Tanaiste Micheal Martin is holding series of meetings with Northern Ireland political leaders. Photo Niall Carson/PA Wire

Chris Haines ICNN Senedd reporter

Wales could be short changed as a consequence of a UK Government agreement to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland, a Labour backbencher warned.

Alun Davies, who represents Blaenau Gwent, welcomed the deal between UK ministers and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland.

But he told the Senedd there will be significant consequences for Wales from the deal, which would see an end to the DUP’s two-year Stormont boycott over post-brexit trade rules.

Mr Davies accused the UK Government of unilaterally changing the rules to make payments in addition to the Barnett formula to individual nations of the UK. 

The deal is set to unlock a £3.3bn financial package from Westminster for Northern Ireland.

Mr Davies said: “We need to understand what the new needs-based formula is for Northern Ireland, and how it will affect the ongoing funding.

“Many of us here have been arguing for a needs-based formula for the funding of Welsh public services as well.

“And it is not right that the Welsh public be short-changed again by a UK Government that doesn’t give a damn about the people of this country.”

The former frontbencher, who tabled a topical question in the Senedd, raised concerns about the potential impact of the agreement on trade within the GB market.

‘Hats off’

Darren Millar, for the Conservatives, welcomed news of a deal, saying: “This is a good day.

“It’s a good day for devolution, particularly for people in Northern Ireland, who have been crying out for the restoration of the devolved government and, indeed, Stormont.

“I think we need to take our hats off, frankly, to Sir Jeffrey Donaldson for coming up with an agreement, against the will of many people in his own party and in the unionist community.”

Mr Millar told MSs that Wales will have a voice as part of a proposed “east-west council” aimed at fostering discussion and cooperation.

Recognising implications for trade and Welsh ports, he explained that a new body, called Intertrade, will be set up to protect the UK internal market.

He said: “That’s why it is important that an east-west council is established with a Welsh voice in it, and the Intertrade UK body also has key Welsh businesses participating in it.”

‘Era defining’

Rhun ap Iorwerth welcomed the news and described the imminent appointment of a Sinn Féin first minister as an era-defining shift in the politics of the UK.

The Plaid Cymru leader told the chamber: “The restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland is a moment to be celebrated, and I wish our friend Michelle O’Neill all the best in her role.”

He said the DUP “spurning” dual access to the EU and UK markets in recent months was hard to stomach as “that’s the kind of position that we would give our right arm for”.

Mr Iorwerth, who represents Ynys Môn, raised concerns about the £3bn financial package that underpins the agreement.

During plenary on January 31, he said the deal clearly appears to offer Northern Ireland a more preferential settlement as he called for clarity on any consequential funding.

‘Devil in the detail’

Mick Antoniw, for the Welsh Government, stressed the devil will be in the detail that follows the “framework” paper, entitled Safeguarding the Union, published by the UK Government. 

He said: “It’s very clear that some of that sum that is made up relates to past pay deals, past consequentials that have already been received around the UK, but were unable to be implemented within Northern Ireland.

“It’s not clear whether all that’s really happening is the backlog of all those is being accumulated together in order to make up for the past couple of years.”

Mr Antoniw agreed there will be important financial and constitutional consequences for Wales, saying: “The Barnett formula is part of our constitutional make-up. 

“I’m very pleased to see the talk about the establishment of a needs-based formula. How long have we been arguing for a needs-based formula for Wales?”

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Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
5 months ago

More Welsh Labour politicians bleating about a lack of funding, crawling on their knees to Westminster. When will this nonsense end? When will we have our own country, with our own finances. All Labour are doing is prolonging the agony.

5 months ago

How typical of Labour to bang on about the Barnett Formula and claiming Westminster shortchanges us – they never stop to consider how dreadful it is that this sort of top up is required in the first place. If they and the Tories had adopted half decent economic policies we wouldn’t need it! I deeply loathe the Barnett formula. I don’t want a top up from England. I want Statehood so we can sort out our economy for ourselves. It is a fact that nations of less than 5M population have the highest GDP per Capita on average. Thanks UK… Read more »

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
5 months ago

Less face facts Wales is always being SHORT GHANGED by both Tory and Labour

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
5 months ago

Unionist Labour can’t have it both ways. They champion the United Kingdom when it suits them but whine when decisions made by their beloved English Whitehall is detrimental to Wales. But will UK Labour reverse any block loses if Keir Starmer gains the keys to No 10 later this year? Simple answer. Like they will. If Wales doesn’t warrant a full sentence in one of Starmer’s conference essays MP Alun Davies is deluding himself if he seriously thinks Labour will fill any financially shortfall once Labour gain power. Also, the Labour bemoaned the recent Conservative decision to scrap of the… Read more »

5 months ago

Labour can’t see the wood for the trees.

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