Wales politics

Brexit case: Welsh Government defends spending £84,000

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The Welsh Government has defended spending more than £84,000 on the Brexit case at the Supreme Court.

Ministers intervened over whether the Article 50 process to leave the EU can be triggered without MPs' approval.

The Welsh Conservatives have found just over £79,000 was spent on legal fees, plus travel and accommodation costs.

Monmouth Tory MP David Davies called it a waste of money, but the Welsh Government said it would not apologise for protecting Wales' interests.

A High Court ruling that MPs had to vote to trigger Article 50 led to a UK government appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Welsh Government took part in that hearing in December, with a ruling by the Supreme Court expected later in January.

The figures have been disclosed as a result of a Freedom of Information request made by the Welsh Conservatives.

They cover both the costs of attending the original High Court case and participating in the Supreme Court appeal.

At the Supreme Court, the Welsh Government argued that triggering Article 50 would "significantly change" the devolution settlement as it applies to Wales.

But the UK government dismissed that argument as "tortuous".

Image caption Monmouth MP David Davies said the case was motivated by ego

The disclosure shows:

  • £79,074.43 was spent on external legal fees
  • £4,162.20 was spent on travel, subsistence and accommodation for the counsel general Mick Antoniw and three Welsh Government lawyers
  • £800 was spent on the application to intervene
  • £327.80 was spent on a meeting room at the Supreme Court

Monmouth Conservative MP David Davies said: "What an absolute waste of taxpayers' cash, and all to pay for Mick Antoniw's tortuous bid to block Brexit.

"Ultimately, the weakness of the Welsh Government's case exposed this venture for what it was - a peacocking exercise, motivated by a combination of ego and an unwillingness to abide by the democratic process.

"It might not seem like a grand sum in the context of the Welsh Government's overall budget, but that kind of money could have paid for four full time Welsh NHS nurses which would have been a much better use of taxpayers' money."

'Act within the law'

The Welsh Government has denied that the case was a bid to block Brexit.

A spokesman said: "We do not apologise for intervening in what is one of the most significant constitutional legal cases in the UK's history.

"We did so to protect the interests of Wales and its devolved institutions.

"The people of the UK voted to leave the European Union, and we respect that decision.

"While Brexit will happen, the UK government cannot trigger it by overriding the British constitution.

"They need to act within the law.

"In the Supreme Court, we argued the process of leaving the EU must be carried out within the law, which includes respecting and adhering to the constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom and the legal framework for devolution."

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