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Wales’ role in UK-EU relations greatly diminished since Brexit, MSs warn

23 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

Chris Haines – ICNN Senedd reporter

Wales’ role in UK-EU relations has greatly diminished since Brexit, with open democratic debate replaced by diktat and decisions made in the shadows, MSs warned.

Huw Irranca-Davies, a Labour backbencher, led a debate on a Senedd constitution committee report following an inquiry into UK-EU governance.

He said the UK’s relationship with the EU remains of considerable importance to citizens in Wales and continues to affect many aspects of people’s lives.

The former MP raised evidence from witnesses that the role of devolved governments in UK-EU decision making has diminished post-Brexit.

Calling for a dedicated EU strategy, Mr Irranca-Davies, who represents Ogmore, also urged the next first minister to re-constitute a European advisory group.

‘Executive diktat’

The committee chair was disappointed the Welsh Government accepted only five of 20 recommendations in full in its response despite agreeing with the spirit of the report.

Deriding the “take back control” slogan used in the 2016 referendum, Alun Davies raised concerns about a shift in power from parliamentary democracy to executive diktat.

The Labour MS warned that governance of the relationship with the EU has gone from open democratic debate to the shadows of civil service and minister-to-minister decision-making.

Mr Davies highlighted a transfer of power from Wales to Westminster, telling MSs: “That’s not been done by democratic debate or decision. It’s been done by removing the rights of this place to legislate in a way that the people of Wales through referendum have sought.”

‘Removed’

Mr Davies, who represents Blaenau Gwent, said Wales helped shape decisions as part of the EU but: “Today, we can barely find a pass to get into the building.

“Our ability to influence decisions that have a real extraterritorial impact on people in Wales today has not simply been diminished, it’s been removed.”

James Evans, a Conservative, who represents Brecon and Radnorshire, raised concerns about Wales losing its voice in governance arrangements.

He said the European Commission and UK Government could make unilateral decisions to change withdrawal agreements without any devolved oversight.

Mr Evans backed the committee’s call for the Welsh Government to be given a full role at the partnership council and continue to have observer status at all relevant meetings.

‘Significant’

Adam Price criticised the Welsh Government for no longer monitoring policy and legislative developments across the European Union as a matter of course.

He said: “This is the most important market for Wales – it’s still very significant indeed – if we want to access that market, to know what is happening in terms of regulation.”

Mr Price argued Wales should follow Scotland in continuing to align regulations with the EU and he called for Wales to join networks such as the Assembly of European Regions.

The former Plaid Cymru leader raised concerns that only one Senedd member has so far been funded to visit Brussels since the 2021 election..

His colleague Delyth Jewell, who chairs the Senedd’s international relations committee, reiterated calls for a dedicated EU strategy from the Welsh Government.

‘Rushed’

Rhys ab Owen criticised the UK Government for withdrawing funding that enables Welsh organisations to take part in the domestic advisory group and civil society forum.

Mr Owen, who sits as an independent, said: “This is a clear inequality of power, as it will mean that Welsh organisations are being cut out of important conversations.”

Responding to the debate on February 21, Mick Antoniw said UK ministers rushed negotiations and initial implementation of the trade and cooperation agreement.

Wales’ constitution minister echoed Mark Drakeford’s warning that substantive changes to the UK-EU relationship are unrealistic until after this year’s general and European elections.

“These provide real opportunities on both sides for fresher engagement and a more positive spirit looking forward,” said Mr Antoniw. “We will do all we can to facilitate and support that.”


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Richard 1
Richard 1
1 month ago

Adam Price’s observations are clearly important. I am dismayed by what he said about the Welsh Government not monitoring developments in the EU and not aligning regulations with the EU. If Scotland is doing that Wales ought to follow suit

Iago Traferth
Iago Traferth
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard 1

The will of the Welsh electorate was Brexit. Scotland is a totally different kettle of fish.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Iago Traferth

Was it the will of the Welsh electorate to leave the Single Market and Customs Union as well? Leave campaigners were telling us ‘we can be like Norway’, yet they changed their tune as soon as the referendum went their way.

The Assembly of European Regions is a separate institution from the European Union.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rob
Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

Yes absolutely

John Davis
John Davis
1 month ago

If the EU is so important to Wales, why did Wales vote to leave? Apparently it isn’t so important or we wouldn’t have wound up in a situation where we have to say bye-bye to port trade, bye-bye to steel jobs and bye-bye to security for farmers from cheap imports of lower-standard meat. Hello to higher food and gas prices, hello to food and medicine shortages and hello to more foodbanks. Project Fear, now Project Reality.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  John Davis

Because people were misled by the Leave campaign. Farage, Hannan et al were telling us the we could still be in the single market and customs union (ie like Norway or Switzerland), £350 million would go to the NHS etc. If a voter was genuinely convinced at the time that things would get better if we left the EU, then why wouldn’t they leave? That being said if the referendum was held again today, Brexit would be reversed. We do not appreciate what we got until its gone.

John Davis
John Davis
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

What people? I saw the same Leave campaigns as everyone else and some basic research told me it was a bad idea. In early 2016 my wife asked me what I thought and I told her it was a can of worms and once the lid was off there would be no controlling where things went, regardless of what was promised. It was pretty obvious to those capable of independent thought that some really big lies were being told. But then I don’t rely on social media to form my opinions.

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