Progress made in EU Withdrawal Bill but challenges to the devolution settlement remain – says National Assembly committee
Following recent changes to key Brexit legislation, an Assembly Committee reports that whilst considerable progress has been made to protect devolution, a risk to the settlement remains.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (“the Bill”) is nearing the end of its passage through Parliament.
The Assembly’s External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee has been working on the Bill, and its preceding White Paper, since March 2017 with a view to ensuring that the implications for Wales, and Welsh devolution, are understood and acted upon by the UK Government.
In October 2017, the Committee set six objectives for improving the Bill. These objectives were based on evidence it took from a range of constitutional and legal experts from across the United Kingdom. The objectives were set to protect the devolution settlement.
In a report published today, the Assembly’s External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee has considered these six objectives in light of the recent Intergovernmental Agreement (between the Welsh and UK governments), recent amendments to the Bill, and the Welsh Government’s Supplementary Legislative Consent Memorandum - a document that describes the Welsh Government’s position on whether or not the Assembly should consent to the UK Parliament making laws in this area.
The Committee concludes that, whilst considerable progress has been made, its six objectives have not been met in full.
“Wales’ position with regards to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and the future control of powers currently passed to Brussels is certainly far less precarious than it was when we first considered this Bill last year,” said David Rees AM, Chair of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee.
“As originally drafted, the Bill would have given the UK Government sweeping powers over areas of policy that have been devolved to Wales for 20 years but which have been exercised under the purview of the EU.”
“The Committee can see that considerable progress has been made and we accept that negotiations require give and take on all sides, with compromise being reached to deliver an agreeable settlement.”
“However, the committee’s objectives have not been met in full and we remain particularly concerned that the Assembly’s ability to pass laws in devolved policy areas such agriculture could be constrained by the UK Parliament, even in circumstances where the Assembly has refused consent for such constraints to be imposed.”
This report is issued ahead of the Assembly’s vote on whether or not to grant its consent to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on Tuesday 15 May and Third Reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday 16 May.
Read the full report:
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: Progress towards delivering our six objectives (PDF, 436 KB)