On Tuesday, with the exception of Plaid Cymru’s nine Assembly Members, Wales’ National assembly voted to give powers in 24 key areas back to Westminster.
These were powers in devolved areas that the people of Wales had voted to bring to our country in 1997 and 2011.
This is no dry constitutional matter as some reporters would have you believe. The result of giving Westminster powers over the environment, procurement, agriculture, and other areas, will most likely have profound effects on our lives for decades to come.
Westminster Hard Brexit Tories now have the power to brush aside Welsh political opposition should the mood take them.
In order to try and put some flesh on the bones of this issue here are the 24 areas where power has been handed back to Westminster, with 24 examples of what that could mean to Wales (in the case of Hard Brexit).
These are hypothetical currently, but many of them are likely, given the Westminster governments’ track record in these areas.
With these powers, the NHS could be forced to procure services from private companies, and environmental regulations and consumer protections could be rolled back.
The UK does not have a good record on environmental regulation, in particular. It as resisted and legislated late when it comes to both environmental standards, and consumer protection.
The Major government of the 1990s was in denial about BSE for years, for example. The pesticide DDT, which has driven animals to near-extinction, was only banned in 1984, and Neonicotinoids are still not banned.
The EU, and devolution, have offered protection from the wishes of the more self-interested elements of the UK ruling class.
But soon Hard Brexit will be upon us, and devolution after Brexit will be weaker than it ever has been. The Rees Mogg’s and Redwood’s will rule the roost, putting profit before people.
Wales could face a Green Armageddon, with consumer rights rolled right back, and thanks to Labour there will, legally, not be a damn thing we can now do about it.
Here then are the examples of what Westminster could soon do to Wales in just a few short months.
1. Agricultural Support Farming subsidies from the EU will end when the UK leaves. Farming is often at best a borderline occupation, and only just financially viable.
While Westminster is unlikely to let farming fall to wrack and ruin, and spark a food crisis at times when supply chains from Europe are under pressure due to Brexit, it could force small farmers could to adopt new technologies, or centralisation, to qualify for subsidies.
Bigger farms with a higher impact on the environment are likely in this scenario, with small farmers forced to sell up or fail.
Upland farming is rare in England, so expect cereal crop farmers to do rather better than Wales’ sheep farmers.
2. Fertiliser Regulations. Wales will not be able to ban fertilisers, or legislate to encourage low carbon fertilisation methods, should it want to.
3. GMO marketing and cultivation. Banning GM seeds and produce from fields and supply chains, as currently happens in many industries in Europe, could be made illegal. And forcing products to label GM ingredients could also be banned. Multinational agricultural companies win. Organic produce loses.
4. Organic Farming. When you buy organic now you we can be pretty sure that the standards behind it are relatively good. But all the standards on what constitutes organic farming could soon be thrown out.
In the future any old crap could be labelled organic. Small producers who really care, will be impacted. Consumers who buy organic will have certainty eroded, paying more for inferior and less sustainable products.
5. Zootech. Zoo what? Wales won’t be able to ban vivisection, or genetic experimentation on live animals.
6. Animal health and traceabilty. The Welsh Government’s powers to legislate over BSE or foot and mouth will be gone. A Walles-only response to something like the horse meat scandal will be impossible.
7. Animal Welfare. Banning circus animals, hunting, or creating a register of animal abusers, could be prevented.
8. Chemicals Regulation. Banning pesticide, like those killing bees, could be impossible.
9. Elements of reciprocal healthcare. The Welsh NHS could lose money when providing prescriptions or health care to those who live on the borders. EU citizens living in Wales could also lose rights to healthcare.
10. Environmental Quality. Leaded petrol could come back with a vengeance.
11. Ozone depleting products. Ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons could make a comeback.
12. Pesticide quality control. The pesticide DDT, which kills birds, and causes cancer, could return.
13. Waste Packaging. Banningsingle-usee plastics could be made impossible.
14. Fisheries. Overfishing, or the use of damaging fishing technologies like dragnets etc, could become common place, and efforts to protect the sea mammals that ive on Wales’ coasts next to impossible.
15. Food and Feed Safety. Stopping the transmission and bio-accumulation of prions, as in BSE CJD, could be made much harder.
16. Food compositional standards. Salt, sugar, and fat content level in foods could be impossible to legislate against, making obesity worse.
17. Food labelling. Consumers could lose the right to know if their food contains anything bad, such as lots of MSG. If a US trade deal brings in chlorinated chicken, you’d never know about it.
18. Hazardous Substances Planning. The Welsh government could not veto asbestos, nuclear waste, or similar disposal or management.
19. EU Emissions Trading implementation. The scheme could not be altered to allow more social good to come from EU Emissions Trading scheme.
20. Professional Standards Recognition. Welsh Lorry drivers could suddenly find it hard to find overseas work. Or pilots. Or nurses. Or doctors.
21. Nutrition Health Claims. We could have a US-style system where anything is marketed as good for your health, without scientific evidence.
22. Plant health, seeds, and propagating material. GM crops, or invasive species, could be given greater licence.
23. Public procurement. This is huge. Councils, schools, and the NHS could be forced to involve or favour the private sector.
24. Services Directive. It could become much harder for consumers to buy services from EU countries.
Labour have long claimed that devolution exists in order to protect Wales against the Tories’ worst instincts.
And with the UK Government rubbing its hands with glee at the opportunity to roll back regulations whenever possible, post-Brexit, you can be sure that we will lose essential protections.
If devolution is Wales’ shield, then Labour have just decided to ditch it on the eve of battle.