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Tensions continue amongst Welsh Conservatives over decision to allow Mark Reckless to join

Credit: ITV News

Tensions continue amongst Welsh Conservatives over the decision to allow a UKIP defector to join the Assembly Group.

Mark Reckless has joined the group but won't become a member of the party. There's been public and private criticism of the move but sources close to the leadership say all AMs backed it.

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  1. Nick Powell

Fresh speculation about Tory leader's future

A file picture of Theresa May's Joint Chief of Staff Nick Timothy Credit: PA

Reports that Conservative Assembly Group staff were sent home early today led to speculation that Welsh leader Andrew RT Davies was meeting Theresa May's Joint Chief of Staff Nick Timothy. That's denied by official Welsh Conservative sources.

MPs who've criticised Mr Davies' decision to allow UKIP defector Mark Reckless into the Tory Group have been confident that they have the support of Downing Street. ITV News understands that at least one AM is preparing to mount a leadership challenge next week. Mr Davies appeared unconcerned tonight.

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UKIP's Mark Reckless rumoured to be quitting party

There's speculation tonight that a leading UKIP Assembly Member is about to quit the party.

Mark Reckless is a former Conservative MP. Credit: PA, Anna Gowthorpe

Mark Reckless, who is a former Conservative MP, is rumoured to have held talks with Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies which could see him sitting as an independent but voting with the Tories in the Senedd.

Mr Reckless hasn't responded to calls today and a UKIP spokesperson refused to comment.

A Welsh Conservative spokesperson dismissed the claim as 'all speculation and unsubstantiated' and added that there are 'no changes to the group.'

However other sources simply say that Mr Reckless hasn't been accepted as a member, leaving open the possibility that he could take the Tory whip but sit as an Independent AM.

There's speculation that his attempt to join the Welsh Conservatives was blocked by the party's UK leadership.

Mr Reckless is a close ally of the MP Douglas Carswell who recently quote UKIP to become an Independent MP.

The party's former leader Nigel Farage has told the Telegraph:

'I will be very sad to see the back of him. Unlike Mr Carswell I have always thought him an honourable person. I'm sure the pressure on him has been enormous over the last week.'

UKIP's former leader in Wales, Nathan Gill, also sits as an independent AM although he remains a UKIP MEP.

The party won seven seats in the Assembly in 2016.

Call for Tory leader to have Brexit role rebuffed by Welsh Govt

There's been a swift rebuff from the Welsh Government for a call to give Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies the chair of a committee advising the Welsh Government on Brexit.

The chair of Vote Leave in Wales, the former Welsh Secretary David Jones had suggested that as Carwyn Jones proved to be out of touch with Welsh opinion on leaving the European Union, the First Minister should turn to Mr Davies for advice.

The proposal produced an unusually swift -and blunt- rejection by the Welsh Government.

We don’t see any merit in this idea. The Welsh Government will work through the consequences of the vote in good faith in the interests of the people of Wales. The National Assembly for Wales is in the process of seeing up a new, more open and transparent Committee structure and the consequences of the Brexit vote will no doubt feature heavily on upcoming agendas.

– Welsh Government Spokesperson

Vote Leave says Tory leader should head Welsh response to Brexit

Former Welsh Secretary David Jones, who led the Vote Leave campaign in Wales, says Carwyn Jones and Leanne Wood should both support making Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies the chair of a committee in charge of shaping Wales' response to the Brexit vote.

The result of the referendum highlighted just how out of step the First Minister and Leader of the opposition were with the people they represent on this issue.

That’s why I would urge the First Minister to be gracious in defeat, and establish an advisory committee of AMs to drive forward Wales’ response to the referendum result.

Andrew RT Davies could potentially be an ideal candidate to chair such a committee, having taking the brave step of backing the campaign to leave the EU, and I’m sure that he would have the support of other leave campaigners here in Wales – including those in UKIP who also played such an influential role in the campaign.

– Vote Leave Cymru Chair David Jones MP

David Jones says Mr Davies could complement "rather than seeking to usurp" the role of the Welsh Government. Meanwhile the First Minister has demanded assurances that the Leave campaign's promise to safeguard aid to Wales will be kept.

One of the most immediate concerns facing us as a government is the future of around half a billion pounds a year which Wales currently receives from the EU to support our farming industry and to bring greater prosperity to some of our most deprived communities.

During the referendum campaign, the Leave side made cast iron promises that this money would continue to come to Wales in the event of a vote to leave the EU. I have today written to the Prime Minister asking him to confirm that every penny of this funding is safe.

We require this funding assurance immediately, as there are hundreds of vital EU-funded projects right across Wales whose future is now in the balance unless that funding guarantee is given. Let me be absolutely clear. These projects are designed to improve people’s lives, their environment and the infrastructure they rely on every day, and we are proud of what they have already delivered. But if that pledge is not honoured by the UK Government, it will have a devastating effect on our budgets, already stretched through years of austerity, and facing billions more in cuts as a result. It will make the difficult decisions we already face even harder. So it is critical there is a positive response to my letter, and I will make it public as soon as receive it.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

The First Minister said that the Wel;sh Government would base a team of civil servants in Brussels to explore independently of the UK Government how Welsh priorities can be taken forward directly with the EU. He said he also expected Welsh Government participation in the UK Government’s Brexit negotiations.

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