Wales politics

NHS Wales: Court action if trade deals affect service?

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Image caption The subject of whether the NHS would be on the table in a trade deal with the US has been a subject of controversy

The Welsh Government "would probably" take the UK government to court if it struck an international trade deal that tried to "trample on" the Welsh NHS, a minister said.

But Eluned Morgan conceded that it would be "difficult for us to stop" from a legal point of view.

Her comments were criticised by a Labour AM.

Alun Davies said threatening legal action "sounds like the last breath before you're thrown out of the pub".

Mr Davies said he was not convinced the Welsh Government would "have a leg to stand on" in trying to shape international trade deals after Brexit.

Following Donald Trump's comments during last week's trade visit that the NHS would be "on the table" in any future trade talks between the UK and the USA, Eluned Morgan said there was "absolutely no prospect whatsoever of us allowing the Welsh NHS to be part of any negotiation."

The US President then rowed back on his initial comments following criticism from a number of MPs.

Image caption Eluned Morgan said it would be legally difficult for the Welsh Government to stop a trade deal from impacting the Welsh NHS

Asked about her response to President Trump's remarks as she gave evidence to the Assembly's Brexit committee on Monday, Ms Morgan said "legally, it would be difficult for us to stop because we don't have a veto over trade".

"Politically, I think it's extremely unlikely to happen," the international relations and the Welsh language minister said.

"They [the UK Government] should not be concluding any trade agreements without consulting us where we have the power."

Ms Morgan explained that UK and Welsh government officials are working on an agreement or 'concordat' for how future trade deals are negotiated.

Image caption Alun Davies said Eluned Morgan's court threat "sounds like the last breath before you're thrown out of the pub"

During a robust exchange, the Labour AM Alun Davies said: "I want something which is in law to which I can hold you to account and which colleagues in Westminster can hold the UK Government to account.

"The argument we'll make life difficult for them, it sounds alright on the street, but it's not the reality of intergovernmental relations."

"The United Kingdom has to find a way of functioning.

"At the moment, your answers aren't giving me any confidence that there is that structure in place because, if the Welsh Government's argument is, 'we'll see you in court', it's not a very impressive argument either for the continuation of the structure of United Kingdom as a state or the commitment of the government within the United Kingdom to actually work together," he added.

Responding to the criticism, Ms Morgan said: "Is the current intergovernmental structure adequate?

"Absolutely not... and it's not just in relation to trade, it's in relation to almost every aspect of government policy. So, that infrastructure needs to be built."

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