‘The day devolution died’: Westminster to give itself power to overrule Wales on key issues

Boris Johnson. Picture by EU2017EE Estonian Presidency (CC BY 2.0)

New post-Brexit rules drawn up by the UK Government will give it the power to overrule Wales on matters such as building a new M4 motorway.

The change 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.

That would include giving the UK Government the power to fund an M4 relief road, which was rejected by Mark Drakeford’s government last year due to its cost and environmental impact.

The Internal Market Bill published today is also expected to is expected to 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.

The Welsh Government has said the Internal Market bill is “an attack on democracy” which will “sacrifice the future of the union by stealing powers from devolved administrations”.

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.”

 

‘Rip power away’

Both Labour and Plaid Cymru have said that the proposed changes will override the wishes of the people of Wales in the devolution referendums of 1997 and 2011.

Wales’ Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles said the “bill is an attack on democracy and an affront to the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who have voted in favour of devolution on numerous occasions”.

“Let me be clear – the U.K. Government plans to sacrifice the future of the union by stealing powers from the devolved administrations,” he said.

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts said it was “disingenuous beyond words” to claim that this Bill strengthens devolution when it will “rip powers away from Wales and allow the UK Government to override our Senedd in entirely devolved areas”.

“This Bill makes a mockery of two devolution referendums and the democratic will of the people of Wales,” she said. “This is a government that, by its own admission, will break the law through this Bill.”

‘Assault’

Nicola Sturgeon responded by saying that an independence referendum was no longer about change vs the status quo, given that staying in the union would now mean fewer powers for the Scottish Parliament.

“The Internal Market Bill that the U.K. government will publish today is a full-frontal assault on devolution,” she said.

“And to the usual ‘but the SNP would say that’ voices, read the Welsh Government view, rightly referring to the Bill ‘stealing’ powers from the devolved governments

“More and more this is not about independence v the status quo of devolution. It’s about independence as the only way to protect the Scottish Parliament from being undermined and its powers eroded.”

Adam Price said that “electing a pro-indy Govt next May is the best response to Westminster’s attempt to bully Wales into submission”.

“The UK Government is refusing Wales any new tax powers (to solve our housing crisis for example) but given itself powers to fund projects in Wales (including the M4 Black Route) against wishes of Senedd,” he said.

“Not a power grab but devo-smash. Indy is the only way forward now surely.”

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