By Jamie Morse
The UK and Welsh governments have come to an agreement to settle a long running dispute over the transition of powers to Wales, that are currently held by the European Union after Brexit.
The agreement amends Westminster’s European Union Withdrawal Bill, which guaranteed that UK laws set by the EU will still apply after Brexit. This promises that whilst Westminster will have the power to change its own laws, any change to powers held by the Welsh Assembly will require the consent of the Senedd.
After months of negotiation the Welsh Government won concessions from Westminster in protecting devolved Welsh powers. This was a far cry from the stance of Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones ten months ago, whereby he warned that the bill was “a naked power grab, an attack on the founding principles of devolution, and could destabilise our economies”.
On the day after the agreement was sealed, Theresa May took time in Prime Ministers Questions to call it “a significant achievement” and asserted that: “it will provide legal certainty, increase the powers of the devolved governments, and respect the devolution settlement”.
For the ‘Department of Exiting the European Union’ led by David Davis, this agreement marks a step towards an organised UK wide consensus on the fate of EU made laws post-Brexit. Scotland’s ministers had been coordinating with the Welsh government in opposing a swift conclusion to the near-year long standoff. However as a result of this Welsh-UK Agreement, Scotland is the only nation awaiting to strike an agreement with Westminster.
The breakdown of the Scottish and Welsh allegiance regarding a deal over devolved powers stems from the stipulation that, whilst the vast majority of powers will be returned to the devolved nations after Brexit, certain powers may reside in Westminster for a minimum of 7 years,- if the UK government deems it necessary to do so.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood voiced her dissatisfaction with the agreement whereby she branded it a “back room deal with the Tories”, and going as far as accusing Welsh Labour of “selling Wales down the river”. Despite the First Minister’s near year-long standoff with Westminster, Plaid Cymru’s website denounces their approach as being a “Hard-Brexit stance”. Responding to Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood in a Senedd meeting a week after the agreement with Westminster, Conservative Brexiteer AM Mark Isherwood accused Plaid of being “trapped in an ideological straitjacket of false perception and divisive prejudice”.
With the devolution question all but sealed, the Prime Minster and David Davis will now turn their attention to Ireland and ongoing uncertainty over the state of the Northern Irish border after Brexit.