Brexit Bill could undermine the “will of the Welsh people”
In response to the publication of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, David Rees AM, Chair of the External Affairs Committee said:
“This Bill should be solely about the legal steps needed to leave the European Union. If that were the case, and it set out a process that took account of the constructive views expressed by Assembly committees, then I’m sure I would be making a statement today that focused solely on the technical points that need addressing as it passes through Parliament.
“But this Bill does not appear to be just about Brexit. On first reading, it appears as though the UK Government may be using Brexit as cover to prevent the Assembly from using powers it currently holds after we leave the European Union.
“It may also pave the way for the UK Government to set polices for Wales in areas that are currently devolved - for example in agriculture and fisheries. If, after further analysis, we conclude that this is the case, then it would be gravely concerning. It would be going against the findings of our report on the White Paper associated with this Bill.
“As we stated in our recent report, this Bill is being introduced following next to no consultation with the Welsh Government and no prior consultation with the Assembly. If this Bill does seek to constrain the Assembly’s powers, then it could be seen as undermining devolution and the democratic will of the Welsh people, as expressed in the 2011 referendum on full law-making powers for Wales.
“We will be looking at the Bill in detail and intend to respond fully in the autumn.”
The External Affairs Committee has published a report on the UK Government’s White Paper Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. This report addressed the devolution issues that will be encountered when legislating for Brexit and to set out how the Assembly can contribute to the withdrawal process.
The Welsh Government has endorsed the Committee’s views. The UK Government has not responded to the Committee’s report.
The Committee is planning to launch an inquiry into the Bill next week and is likely to seek views from the public over the summer.