Wales politics

Brexit: EU withdrawal bill 'assault on devolution'

Carwyn Jones
Image caption Carwyn Jones has claimed the terms of Brexit could result in Wales losing power to Westminster

First Minister Carwyn Jones has said he will take steps to protect Welsh powers after Brexit if UK ministers do not change their EU withdrawal bill.

He claimed the way Theresa May planned to bring powers back from Brussels was a "fundamental assault" on devolution.

Mr Jones said the Welsh Government would refuse consent to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill as it stood.

He said a continuity bill to protect Welsh interests will be unveiled by the end of January unless changes are made.

The first minister gave the warning in a written statement on Tuesday, as the EU (Withdrawal) Bill returned to the House of Commons for debate by MPs at its report stage.

The Welsh and Scottish governments have claimed they face a "power grab" from the UK government for proposing that Brussels authority in devolved matters like farming go to Westminster.

"The Bill as it currently stands represents a fundamental assault on devolution," Mr Jones said.

"It would replace current constraints on the National Assembly's legislative competence, which will fall away as a consequence of the UK leaving the European Union, with a new set of constraints in devolved competences that would be controlled by the UK government.

"We have consistently said there is no prospect of the Welsh Government recommending consent to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill as it is currently drafted."

'Fit for purpose'

In December, the first minister said he was "encouraged" by the latest round of Brexit talks with the then First Secretary Damian Green, who has since stepped down from the UK government.

Mr Jones said he would prefer to continue negotiations with the UK government to make the bill "fit for purpose", but added that the Welsh Government had been preparing a continuity bill of its own to protect Welsh interests after Brexit.

"Should discussions we are having with the UK government not result in the necessary amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill coming forward, it is my intention to submit our Continuity Bill to the Presiding Officer, before the end of this month, for her determination," he said.

Plaid Cymru AM Steffan Lewis will present his party's version of a continuity bill to the Senedd on Wednesday.

"There is no indication that the Tories are any more willing to compromise," he said.

"The Welsh Government cannot continue to wait in hope that the Tories will see reason - the time to trigger the Continuity Bill is now."

A spokesman for the Welsh Conservatives said: "We note with disappointment that Carwyn Jones' public pronouncements about Brexit do not correlate with his private conversations with UK government ministers about the issue, which we know have been largely positive.

"In our new Minister for the Cabinet Office - David Lidington - Wales has an excellent champion of devolution who's braced to take advantage of the many opportunities our departure from the EU will bring."

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