First Ministers set out Brexit Repeal Bill changes

Carwyn Jones has joined forces with the Scottish First Minister to publish a list of proposed changes to the UK Government's main Brexit Bill.

Credit: PA Images

The two First Ministers have also written to Theresa May urging her to work with the devolved governments to overcome their objections to her plans to transfer EU laws and regulations when the UK leaves.

They've previously expressed concerns about the Repeal Bill, also known as the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, saying that it amounts to a 'naked power grab.'

Read more:Changes to Brexit Bill 'may be necessary' say senior Tories

They say that powers in devolved areas like fishing and agriculture should be transferred to Cardiff and Edinburgh rather than London.

The UK Government insists that most powers will be devolved but some need to be administered on a UK-wide basis.

Speaking as the Welsh and Scottish amendments were published, Carwyn Jones said,

We want a Bill that works with, not against, devolution. Until that point is reached, we cannot give it our consent. The amendments we have published today are not about stopping Brexit, they are about protecting the interests of the people of Wales and Scotland. I hope they secure widespread support across the House of Commons.

While the UK Government has so far shown a lack of lack of willingness to engage with the devolved nations, and a fundamental lack of trust, we hope today marks a sea change in the way our Governments work together on Brexit. Only by listening to each other, can we find a way forward that protects the interests of all parts of the Union.

– Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister

Last week Carwyn Jones and Nicola Sturgeon formally began the process of denying consent to the Bill in the Assembly and the Scottish Parliament by tabling Legislative Consent Motions at the same time as recommending that consent be denied.

However, in their letter, the First Ministers say that if the amendments are made, 'we could consider recommending to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales.'

They say their amendments have four aims:

  • After leaving the EU, that powers in devolved policy areas are returned to the Assembly and Scottish Parliament
  • Preventing UK ministers changing laws relating to devolution without the support of the devolved institutions
  • Require the agreement of the Welsh and Scottish Governmenst on any changes to current EU laws in devolved areas after Brexit
  • Ensure ministers in devolved governments aren't faced with greater restrictions than UK Government ministers.

Scotland's Brexit minister Michael Russell said the move by the First Ministers puts the ball into the UK Government's court.

We have said we are willing to co-operate with the UK Government but this cannot mean allowing Westminster to drive a coach and horses through the devolution settlement. At present that is what the EU (Withdrawal) Bill does. The UK Government will take control of all policy areas exercised at EU level, whether they are devolved or not.

That is why the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales have described this bill as a naked power grab.

We have made it repeatedly clear that we are not opposed in principle to UK-wide arrangements, but devolved policy areas must come back to the Scottish Parliament, where they properly lie, and then we can work towards an agreement.

– Michael Russell, Scotland Brexit minister

The First Secretary of State, Damian Green, responded to the publication by promising to work with both governments.

But he warned that the UK Government will do nothing to risk the benefits of a United Kingdom and said that the Brexit process will leave devolved governments with more power than they have currently.

The important thing now is to work our way through these lists and find the areas where we will need to maintain a common UK or GB approach, as well as those areas where it will make sense to transfer powers direct to the devolved governments. When it is better to devolve then that is what we will do, as we have done for the last 20 years.

The Repeal Bill aims to maximise certainty for individuals and businesses as we leave the EU. The UK Government stands ready to listen to those who offer improvements to the Bill - but we will do nothing that risks undermining the benefits of the UK.

Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast will receive more decision making powers as a result of this process. But the UK Government will not risk our internal UK market, or make life more difficult or more expensive for UK companies, workers or consumers. We all observe the same broad EU rules now. Doing things four different ways - in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - will not be the best way if it adds costs to companies and customers across the UK.

– Damian Green MP, First Secretary of State