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Carwyn Jones' Brexit warning backed by Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown was speaking at Cardiff University Photo: Nick Powell

First Minister Carwyn Jones has responded to the triggering of Brexit by warning that it could be a disaster for Wales, despite signs that Theresa May had paid some attention to the Welsh Government's views. He told AMs that the Prime Minister had not shown him the letter that she's sent to the EU.

I did not see the letter before today and we were not invited to contribute to its drafting. This is unacceptable and is the culmination of a deeply frustrating process in which the devolved administrations have been persistently treated with a lack of respect.

In a letter to us today, the UK Government says it has taken into account our six priorities in formulating its negotiating position, and despite the huge flaws in the internal UK negotiating process, I believe we can see evidence of this. There is common ground on the Single Market – we call for 'full and unfettered access' while they say 'freest and most frictionless trade possible'.

The UK wants to achieve this through a bespoke bi-lateral Free Trade Agreement with the EU-27. We do not think this is the only way, or even necessarily the best way, but we recognise that this approach could, in principle, work. The Prime Minister’s letter recognises that WTO rules represents the default position for the UK in the absence of an agreement. I repeat what I have said many times: such an outcome would be a disaster for Wales and, I believe, for the UK as a whole.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

The First Minister added that he will vigorously oppose any clawback of devolved powers as a result of Brexit. It was one of the issues discussed at a meeting of senior Labour politicians at Cardiff University. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Brexit should be the opportunity to take devolution further.

Brexit will force us, perhaps for the first time, to face up to the vast structural inequalities and income , wealth and power between the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. If Brexit happens in the way that the government wants it to happen, there will be a vast concentration of power in Whitehall at the expense of the nations and regions. We have got to start rethinking the British constitution in a way that gives more power to the nations and regions of the United Kingdom.

I did not choose Brexit and would prefer that we were staying in the European Union. This is a very sad day for Britain. We have now got to think imaginatively about how we can can make sure that some of these long term structural inequalities in the United Kingdom are dealt with. That means there has got to be a big discussion on a more federal, a more decentralised constitution for the country.

– Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown
"The PM asked me to give you this" -Britain's EU Ambassador hands the Article 50 letter to the European Council President Credit: European Council

In the letter handed to European Council President Donald Tusk, Theresa May has said that she too expects many powers brought back from Brussels to be passed on the devolved nations.

From the start and throughout the discussions, we will negotiate as one United Kingdom, taking due account of the specific interests of every nation and region of the UK as we do so. When it comes to the return of powers back to the United Kingdom, we will consult fully on which powers should reside in Westminster and which should be devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But it is the expectation of the Government that the outcome of this process will be a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved administration.

– Theresa May's Letter to the EU, triggering Brexit

In the Senedd, UKIP's Neil Hamilton said that Carwyn Jones was the voice of doom and gloom, who "makes Gordon Brown look positively cheerful by comparison".

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