EU powers at heart of devolution row are revealed

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.

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.

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.