The ambiguity centred round Brexit is rife within the Welsh and British political sphere, and with devolution becoming the forefront of politics, Plaid Cymru is voicing their concern for the future of devolution for Wales outside of the European Union. Plaid Cymru’s Steffan Lewis stated that “The Welsh Government needs to raise the “political stakes on Brexit”, with the party commenting that action from ministers to get Wales ‘Brexit-prepared’ was “flatly non-existent”.
Whilst Plaid Cymru and the Labour-led Welsh Government had published a joint white paper on Brexit in January demanding full single market access, Plaid stopped the co-operation agreement with Labour a mere few days ago. Leanne Wood has stated that: “the agreement no longer stands, the budget deal “represents a natural conclusion to the Compact”.
Steffan Lewis, the external affairs spokesman for Plaid Cymru outlined that the UK Government’s Brexit bill effectively ignored the results of the two Assembly referendums. Whilst the Welsh Government responded to this claim stating it was seeking “the best possible Brexit for Wales”, this is implausible considering that Plaid Cymru has recently pulled out of the agreement that secures the Welsh stance on Brexit.
Lewis called on the Welsh Government to press ahead with legislating as ” the clock was ticking” on protecting Welsh devolution under Brexit, and for its own EU continuity bill. The First Minister Carwyn Jones stated that he would back the bill only if he felt that the Westminster legislation posed a threat to the powers of the Welsh Assembly. A spokesperson for the Welsh Government stated in response to Plaid Cymru that: “Since the UK voted to leave the EU we have consistently sought to secure the best possible Brexit for Wales. We are also working closely with the Scottish government to ensure that the Withdrawal Bill does not undermine the constitution and the devolution settlement.”
The threat of devolution being hindered by the Brexit process is a major concern for Plaid Cymru. As Fflur Jones, author of a paper written for Plaid Cymru, argued: “The EU Withdrawal Bill poses an “existential threat” to the current devolution settlement, saying it needed “significant amendment”. The EU Withdrawal Bill lists how the powers from Brussels will be returned to the United Kingdom, preserving European law into UK domestic law. Which means that Ministers in Westminster hold the powers prior to being handed over to the devolved institutions.
Brexit is inevitable, and as a result the relationship between Westminster and the devolved Governments should remain strong, in order to prevent the Welsh Assembly being undermined throughout the Brexit negotiations. Wales is heavily reliant upon the European Union for financial security as the Welsh GDP per capita per PPS is between £5,000 and £20,000, one of the lowest throughout the European Union. Yet, the Welsh Government do not have enough money to act upon this poverty due to restrictions with the current devolved powers. Whilst the new tax reforms will allow Wales to raise more funding for its expenditure, funding for Wales is a major concern for a post Brexit society as Wales relies heavily upon EU funding. As devolution is directly correlated to the amount of funding that Wales gets, it is evident as to why Plaid Cymru are greatly concerned with the future of Welsh devolution.