Brexit bill should ‘respect devolution’, say AMs
Changes are needed to UK ministers’ Brexit bill to respect two referendums on Welsh devolution, the chairman of a cross-party committee of AMs has said.
David Rees said the current bill gives UK ministers “sweeping powers” on matters “devolved for 20 years”.
The legislation, transferring EU law into UK law, has been called a “power grab” by First Minister Carwyn Jones.
The UK government said it wants “all parts of the UK to back this Bill”.
Theresa May’s deputy Damian Green hopes talks with devolved ministers will allow AMs to back it.
David Rees, chairman of the assembly external affairs committee, warned its members would not recommend AMs do so if the concerns were not addressed.
The UK government is keen to avoid the EU (Withdrawal) Bill being rejected in Cardiff Bay, and the constitutional row that would follow.
The external affairs committee said so called “UK policy frameworks” on matters such as agriculture, fisheries and economic aid should be “agreed by the governments and legislatures of the UK and not imposed by the UK government”.
It also said UK ministers should only be able to amend laws originally created in Brussels on matters Westminster was responsible for.
Mr Rees said: “The EU Withdrawal Bill gives the UK government sweeping powers over areas of policy that have been devolved to Wales for 20 years.
“It is vital that we respect the people who voted in two referenda for a National Assembly with power to legislate on devolved issues.”
But Mr Rees, Labour AM for Aberavon, said his committee recognised “the scale of the challenge ahead and we are ready to play our part to ensure we have workable laws after we leave the EU”.
A UK government spokesperson said: “We want all parts of the UK to back this bill, as it’s an essential bill in the national interest.
“Not a single decision currently taken by the Welsh Government will be taken away under this Bill, and it is our expectation that the outcome of this process will provide greater decision-making power for each devolved administration.”