Wales politics

Brexit Party: Reckless warns stopping group will backfire

Mark Reckless Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mark Reckless has been designated the leader of the proposed new group

Changing rules to stop the Brexit Party being officially recognised in the Welsh Assembly would be counter-productive, the group's designated leader has said.

Four former UKIP AMs are hoping to form a Brexit Party group in the Senedd.

Mark Reckless, who would lead the group, said rival parties should not try to "lock us out of democracy", pointing to high opinion poll ratings.

Plaid Cymru and Labour insist the new group has no democratic mandate.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage unveiled the four AMs - Mark Reckless, Caroline Jones, Mandy Jones and David Rowlands - on Wednesday.

They have asked the assembly to recognise them as an official political group - meaning they would be given resources for extra staff, extra speaking time in the Senedd, and more involvement in the day-to-day business of the institution.

It would also give members of the group access to jobs which attract additional salaries. Mr Reckless, as leader of the group, would stand to earn an extra £17,969 on top of his £67,649 AM's salary.

Image caption Nigel Farage (third left) welcomed the AMs who have joined his party at the assembly on Wednesday

BBC Wales reported on Thursday that at least six AMs are expected to propose a rule change to stop regional assembly members - elected through the party list system - from defecting to parties that have no previous representation.

Mr Reckless said he would prefer to resolve matters politically rather than legally, but said he had confirmed with the assembly's legal advisers that its rules - known as standing orders - are potentially subject to judicial review, unlike those of House of Commons.

Referring to a recent Welsh opinion poll that suggested support for the party stood at 33%, Mr Reckless said: "To lock us out of democracy - it would be so counter-productive.

"We expect the rules to be applied and we expect the rules to be applied in the normal way.

"Anyone of thinking of doing otherwise, or changing the rules mid-process, or trying to ban a political group supported by a third of the Welsh people, needs to think very very carefully about the ramifications and likely external response.

"I think the reality is in a democratic country where a party is supported by a third of the country you can't seek to ban political groups."

Image caption Presiding Officer Elin Jones has the final say in whether the Brexit Party group is officially recognised

Presiding Officer Elin Jones is currently considering the group's request for recognition. Under the process, she is seeking to clarify the status of each member and conducting "due diligence checks".

Mr Reckless said he has given Ms Jones "all the information that she can reasonably require".

"I feel it is right for me to presume that the presiding officer will do her job in the proper way, fairly and impartially, applying standing orders and the rules of the assembly," he said.

The proposal to change the rules is expected to be discussed at business committee - the cross-party body which determines the assembly's day-to-day work - on Tuesday.

Plaid Cymru, which Ms Jones belongs to, has said that the four AMs in question should "not be permitted to form a group nor given access to public resources and funding in the Senedd".

A Welsh Conservative spokeswoman said the party's AMs will "carefully consider any official changes as and when they're proposed".

"The Welsh Conservatives always support fair, equal and democratic process, rather than spontaneously moving the goalposts half way through the game," she added.

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