Progress made on post-Brexit powers for Wales

30 November 2017, 13:36

First Minister Carwyn Jones

The Welsh First Minister has said there should be "agreement not imposition" between the UK and Welsh governments on the sharing of powers after Brexit.

Carwyn Jones, who previously described the the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill as a "crude power grab", said the two sides had not reached agreement but progress had been made.

"There were good discussions about future frameworks, how powers would work across the UK," he said.

"We are not in a position to support the Withdrawal Bill yet because of the elements of it that affect devolution, but there was acknowledgement that there was an opportunity for the UK Government to consider our amendments as the Bill goes through Parliament.

"There should be agreement not imposition.

"We understand what the UK Government is trying to do and we share the same destination, but either they do it through imposing rules on the rest of us or they do it by us all agreeing."

Mr Jones previously said the Bill was an "attack on the founding principles of devolution" as responsibilities for devolved areas would be returned from Brussels to London so UK-wide frameworks in areas such as agriculture could be drawn up.

Control over these areas would only be given to the devolved administrations at a later stage.

Mr Green said he was encouraged by the constructive nature of the talks with Mr Jones, Welsh finance secretary Mark Drakeford and Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns, on Thursday.

"We are now making real progress in ensuring that all parts of the UK are ready for the extra powers that are coming back from the EU to the UK," he said in a statement.

"Everyone accepts that UK frameworks will be required in certain areas to protect the vital advantages of the UK domestic market.

"Both sides are now getting into the deep detail of how we put in place the best arrangements for the day we leave the EU."

He said he was confident "we can keep up this momentum and have a successful Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) with all the devolved administrations in London next month".

Mr Cairns also said good progress had been made and he was "confident this process will deliver agreed UK frameworks in the areas where we need them and a significant increase in powers for the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government".

Ahead of the meeting at the Welsh Government's offices in Cathays Park, Cardiff, Mr Jones called for the devolved administrations to have an active role in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations.

He said: "It would be counterproductive to refuse the devolved nations a full and active role in the negotiations.

"We have been elected by the people of Wales to represent their interests and there is no-one better placed to champion Welsh needs."

Mr Jones said the negotiations were not just about the Welsh economy but would cover all aspects of Welsh life such as protecting the language and ensuring the best staff work in hospitals and universities.

After the meeting he said he was not moving the goalposts and added it was "hugely important" that Wales had a strong influence in the negotiations.

Mr Jones said: "Trade is a matter for the UK Government. We know that, but of course we have a very strong interest in trade.

"Let's say, for example, there was a free trade agreement with China that allowed steel to come into the UK without any kind of restriction - that clearly has an adverse effect in the Welsh steel industry."

Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, criticised Mr Jones' call to be actively involved in the negotiations.

He said: "The Welsh Government has been consistently and constructively engaged by the UK Government throughout the Brexit process with regular meetings with the Prime Minister, First Secretary of State and the Secretary of State for Wales, but that clearly will never be enough for our floundering First Minister."

A spokeswoman for Mr Jones said both sides recognised that progress had been made on Brexit since the last meeting.

"The First Minister reiterated his central message that he is not looking to frustrate Brexit, and recognises the importance of respecting the referendum result," he said.

"However, both the final deal and resulting legislation must reflect the economic and constitutional priorities of Wales."