The U.K. Government plans to “sacrifice the future of the union by stealing powers from the devolved administrations,” according to Wales’ Brexit Minister.
Jeremy Miles was responding to the draft Internal Market Bill which will be published tomorrow.
The bill 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.
Jeremy Miles sais that 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.
He added that he was angry that he was not briefed on the contents on the bill until two hours after the British media, and that the Welsh Government’s concerns had not been addressed.
The full statement
“I have finally had a call with BEIS secretary of state Alok Sharma, during which I was briefed on some of the content of the draft UKIM Bill – some two hours after the media were provided the same courtesy,” Jeremy Miles said.
“It is clear to me that our concerns on behalf of the people of Wales, have not been addressed, and that the UKIM Bill will reflect the White Paper.
“Let me be clear – the UK Government plans to sacrifice the future of the union by stealing powers from devolved administrations. This 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.
“Their proposals for mutual recognition may sound sensible but they are the starting gun for a race to the bottom, undermining the high standards we currently enjoy in terms of food standards, animal welfare and the environment.
“Vital decisions over support for Welsh businesses, important infrastructure and investment opportunities and the safety of the food on the shelves of Welsh supermarkets should be made in Wales, by the government of Wales, and with the consent of the Senedd – and not at the behest of Conservative backbenchers.
“The UK Government is explicitly seeking to rewrite the devolution settlement. The fact that they are also seeking primary legislation shows they are taking those powers from us.
“We believe in the principle of an internal market – but this bill is not remotely necessary to deliver it. We will do everything we can to challenge the power grab and the race to the bottom which this bill represents.”
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.