In their last act before their Easter break, Assembly members have passed emergency legislation laying claim to all powers over devolved matters that are currently in the hands of the European Union. The Welsh Government introduced the bill after saying that the UK Government's proposals were unacceptable.
The UK Government’s EU withdrawal bill, as currently drafted, would allow it to take control of laws and policy areas that are devolved. This is wholly unacceptable and must change. Our strong preference remains for satisfactory, UK-wide legislation ... amended to ensure devolution is respected. The UK Government has been so slow and reluctant to recognise our legitimate concerns. This lack of progress is a matter of real frustration given that we share the same objectives as the UK Government - to create certainty and ensure there are no barriers within the UK’s own internal single market. But this has to be done through consent, not by imposition.
Carwyn Jones added that it's not too late to reach agreement, although there was an urgent need for further progress and the parliamentary timetable was tight. The First Minister said that if there is a deal, AMs would be asked to repeal the law that they had just passed and instead agree to the Westminster legislation.
The bill was backed by Plaid Cymru and most UKIP AMs but opposed by the Conservatives, who said it had been a complete waste of time and was just grandstanding by the Welsh Government.
The Continuity Bill is an unnecessary and unhelpful sideshow which risks undermining the ongoing negotiations with the UK Government. It was a parody from the start, with members unable to scrutinise its passage through the Assembly in anything like a proper fashion. The UK Government has delivered a considerable and reasonable offer to deliver a smooth and orderly departure from the EU for the whole of the UK. Sadly, the Welsh Government allowed itself to be carried away by the SNP on a nationalist whim – instead of acting in the national interest. I remain hopeful that an agreement will be reached between the devolved administrations and the UK Government, so that we can put this bogus Bill behind us.
The Welsh Government's bill; was passed by 39 votes to 13, with one abstention.