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  1. ITV Report

EU powers at heart of devolution row are revealed

The UK Government says there are important powers coming back from the EU which can't be devolved to Wales without a legally binding agreement on how they're used. Credit: PA

After months of wrangling over which European Union powers should be devolved to the Welsh Government after Brexit, the UK Government has listed the 24 responsibilities it says can't go straight to Cardiff Bay. Nearly all of them affect agriculture and the environment and include the crucial issue of farm subsidies. The important power to decide state aid -financial help for businesses- is on a separate list of 12 powers that the UK government doesn't think affect devolution at all but which the devolved governments want included.

There are another 131 powers where the UK Government says it is happy for the constituent parts of the United Kingdom to do things differently -or to reach agreement voluntarily (though some of these powers only apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland). But on the key 24 powers, ministers at Westminster are adamant that they cannot be devolved until a legally binding framework is in place to avoid differences in matters like state subsidies and animal health, which could disrupt free trade within the UK.

The Welsh and Scottish Governments don't dispute the need for such frameworks but argue that in devolved areas the different governments should negotiate as equals to put agreements in place. They say they can't accept imposition by Whitehall and will use their own legal powers to challenge any UK legislation that they find unacceptable.

These are not ‘new powers’ – they are already devolved to Wales. This analysis shows that the UK Government want to exert control on 24 areas relevant to Wales out of a total of 64. The UK Government need to make significant changes to the Withdrawal Bill to fully respect devolution. We have put forward constructive proposals to reach agreement on the necessary changes. Our discussions will continue.

– Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford AM

A Welsh Government source said the publication of the UK Government's list was long overdue. It's possible that a compromise will be reached when the First Ministers of Wales and Scotland meet the Prime Minister next week. Otherwise, there could be a battle in the Supreme Court over the EU Withdrawal Bill and possibly other Brexit legislation as well. Plaid Cymru is urging the Welsh Government not to back down.

This list leaves no question that these are devolved Welsh powers that Westminster is grabbing back, without our consent.

The Welsh Government mustn't give them an inch. It is a blatant power-grab disguised as a Brexit necessity, and it must be opposed at all costs.

– Plaid Cymru Brexit Spokesperson Steffan Lewis AM

But the Welsh Conservatives said the UK government had made a "considerable and reasonable" offer. One of their senior AMs, David Melding, who wants a more federal United Kingdom, suggested that an arrangement similar to the EU's Council of Ministers could emerge in the UK after Brexit.

These changes will see more powers conferred to Wales after Brexit than they did before, while protecting the UK internal market and enabling us to meet our international obligations.

It’s time for the Welsh Government to come to the table in the national interest, and not allow itself and Wales to be held back by the nationalist whims of the SNP.

We have always emphasised that some UK frameworks will be needed - a point recognised by both the Welsh and Scottish governments. I am confident that the principle of shared governance can be accepted over these frameworks in a manner similar to former EU governance.

– David Melding AM, Conservative