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AMs to vote on rushing through EU law showdown

AMs will be asked to rush through the bill as emergency legislation Credit: PA, Tim Ireland

Assembly Members will decide later if they'll rush through Welsh Government plans to break its stalemate with the UK Government over how EU powers should be shared out after Brexit.

Carwyn Jones' government has set out its plan to claim all powers in devolved areas such as farming and fisheries set out in a Continuity Bill which the Prime Minister has described as unnecessary.

It's expected a majority of AMs will agree to treat the bill as emergency legislation which means it will be debated, scrutinised and could become law more quickly than usual.

Talks designed to reach agreement failed two weeks ago despite ministers in London making what it described as a 'considerable offer.'

That offer means the disputed powers would be transferred directly to Wales and Scotland, although ministers in London would retain a veto on their use in some limited areas.

The UK Government says that ability is needed to make sure that rules and regulations which affect businesses on a UK-wide basis continue to be applied fairly.

However the Welsh and Scottish Governments say it shows a lack of respect for devolution. They say they understand that rules in some areas should be operated on a UK-wide basis but that such systems should be agreed.

First Minister Carwyn Jones says he'd still prefer to avoid the constitutional row the continuity bill will inevitably cause if it's passed.

The Continuity Bill is not an attempt to frustrate or block Brexit. We are simply seeking to protect our devolution settlement, while making sure there is legal certainty when the UK leaves the EU. This is what Welsh businesses are calling for.

While we remain in constructive conversation with the UK Government – with talks continuing this week - the EU Withdrawal Bill, as currently drafted, would allow the UK Government to take control of laws and policy areas that are devolved. This is simply not acceptable.

Reaching agreement with the UK Government remains our preferred outcome. However, we are running out of time and need to progress with our Bill so we are prepared for a situation where the UK Government does not adequately amend the Withdrawal Bill to respect the devolution settlement.

– Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister

There'll be another chance for the three governments to try to reach agreement in a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee this coming Thursday.

If that fails, there'll be a face-to-face meeting between the Prime Minister and the First Ministers of Wales and Scotland on March 14th.

If they fail to reach agreement and the continuity bill is passed, it will lead to a constitutional row which is likely to be referred to the Supreme Court.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood says the Prime Minister should use this 'last chance' to stop her 'power grab' and avoid 'chaos in the courts.'

The EU Withdrawal Bill is being used to smuggle-past the removal of Welsh powers.

Rather than bring powers over devolved areas such as agriculture and the environment which currently reside in Brussels straight to Cardiff, the Tory UK Government seems determined to seize control of them and risk a constitutional crisis.

As the National Assembly prepares to debate the Law Derived from the EU Bill today - something which has come about thanks to the work of my colleague Steffan Lewis AM - this is the Prime Minister's final chance to guarantee that Welsh powers will be protected post-Brexit.

Failure to do so could see Welsh Bill facing a legal challenge - something which the UK Government is already threatening - resulting in chaos in the courts.

In her speech last week the Prime Minister pledged to 'preserve the union'. Her Tory Government's determination to undermine the will of the Welsh people who have twice voted for more powers for Wales could easily result in its demise.

The ball is now in the Prime Minister's court. She must act swiftly to deliver the economic and constitutional stability that the country so desperately needs.

– Leanne Wood AM, Plaid Cymru leader

If AMs agree today to treat the bill as emergency legislation, it could pass through its various stages of debate and scrutiny within weeks.