Brexit: Senedd needs 'fresher faces' after UK leaves EU

By Ione Wells
Westminster correspondent

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image copyrightWelsh Assembly
image captionCaroline Jones MS says more fresh ideas were needed for investment in Wales

The Welsh Parliament needs "fresher faces" after the UK leaves the EU, a Member of the Senedd (MS) has said.

Independent MS Caroline Jones, formerly of UKIP and the Brexit Party, said the Senedd did not represent "the people of Wales' wishes" over Brexit.

In a BBC Wales interview series with figures from both sides of the Brexit campaign in Wales, Ms Jones called for investment ideas.

And she said a Brexit trade deal was "positive news" for the UK and EU.

A bill bringing the deal into UK law was backed by the Commons by 521 to 73 votes on Wednesday after Parliament was recalled.

The Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament is elected through the "additional member system", under which the seats won by parties are roughly proportional to the votes cast.

In a post-Brexit landscape, Ms Jones says she would like the Senedd to "work differently" to better represent people's wishes.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionFormerly the Welsh Assembly, the Senedd Cymru - Welsh Parliament has been based in the Senedd in Cardiff Bay since 2006

"There were some of the Conservatives in the Senedd who wanted Brexit, but a lot of them didn't," she said.

"You had about 85% of the Assembly Members then, Members of the Senedd now, who were not representing the people of Wales' wishes in the democratic mandate [of the referendum]."

Ms Jones was elected in 2016 as a regional list Senedd member for UKIP for South Wales West.

She was leader of the UKIP group in the Senedd before joining the Brexit Party, citing UKIP's movement "to a more far-right position".

Although the Brexit Party was an ideological fit for her pro-Brexit views, she quit the party after leader Mark Reckless said the party would campaign to scrap the Senedd in next year's election.

image captionMark Reckless, the Brexit Party's leader in the Senedd, vowed to campaign to scrap the Senedd in the 2021 election

"When the leader tried to go in an anti-devolution movement - I couldn't in all conscience," she explained.

"I support Wales, I'm a devolutionist, I believe in devolution. But it has to work differently for the people of Wales.

"I'm proud of my country but I'm not proud of the situation it's in, which has nothing to do with Brexit. This has been the same situation now for years, it has to change.

"I would like to see a fresher Welsh Parliament. I'd like to see fresher faces with good ideas on what to invest in because I think it's become the same faces. You know how people are going to vote."

It claimed it could constrain the Senedd's ability to make law, but the UK government said it will "protect Welsh jobs".

What does Ms Jones make of this post-Brexit devolution row?

"I want, first of all, for the Welsh Government and the UK government to form for the people of Wales a much better relationship than they have at the moment. Brexit is done," she said.

"Now is time to work for the people of Wales to have the best result out of this that we can get.

"I'm very concerned unless you get this healthy relationship between the Welsh Government and UK government - things are not going to go ahead."

image captionCaroline Jones, pictured right, was one of four Senedd members who formed the Brexit group

"There's been a lack of investment in Wales. It's no good when 28% are living in child poverty, when most of our steel industry is gone, our manufacturing industry has not been invested in and has left Wales.

"The infrastructure in Wales has been poorly invested in."

Commenting after the UK and EU agreed a post-Brexit trade deal, Ms Jones said: "Obviously, we will carefully study the details... to enable us to highlight to the public the pros and cons of the deal.

"But [a deal] is positive news for both the UK and the EU. Our preferred option was always a good deal for the UK.

"Businesses in Wales will be happy with the news of a trade deal after being left in limbo for so many years."

Listen to the full interview - and other conversations with key figures from the Brexit campaign in Wales - each morning this week on BBC Radio Wales.

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