Assembly expected to say yes to Brexit bill despite powers row

Credit: PA, Tim Ireland

Welsh ministers are standing by their deal with the UK Government on post-Brexit powers for the Assembly and say AMs should vote today to give it the green light.

The Welsh Government says its agreement 'strengthens devolution and protects the United Kingdom.'

However Plaid Cymru accuses Labour ministers of 'bowing down to the Tories at Westminster and supporting their power grab.'

The agreement means a majority of Assembly Members are likely today to say 'yes' to the plans set out in the UK Government's EU Withdrawal Bill.

They're expected to vote to give the bill consent as it affects areas which are the responsibility of ministers in Cardiff.

It also seems certain that members of the Scottish Parliament will reject it when they hold a similar vote today.

The bill has been hugely controversial for a range of reasons and the focus of months of talks between the three governments during which time both Carwyn Jones and Nicola Sturgeon described it as a 'power grab.'

They claimed that it would see ministers in London keeping hold of powers currently held by Brussels when they return to Britain after it leaves the European Union.

Those powers they said should go straight to Cardiff and Edinburgh or at least that the devolved governments should have a say in what happens to them.

The Welsh Government has now agreed to a way of working with the UK Government which it says allows it to have that say over the disputed powers in future.

Ahead of today's vote that agreement has been heavily criticised by Plaid Cymru's leader Leanne Wood.

There have also been serious concerns expressed by a committee of Assembly members.

The External Affairs and Additional Legislation (EAAL) committee published a report last night which said that despite 'considerable progress' there remains a 'risk to the [devolution] settlement.'

In its interim report published in December the EAAL committee had said it couldn't recommend that AMs give the Withdrawal Bill their consent.

It doesn't go so far this time but its Chair, the Labour AM David Rees, summed up the committee's concerns:

The Welsh Government is defending its decision to reach agreement.

In an interview with me for this week's Sharp End programme, the Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford told me:

Here's the full interview:

Since that interview took place it's become apparent how much of a difference of opinion there is within different levels of the Labour party.

Not only will Scottish Labour MSPs vote against consent later, but they've also been supported in that position by the UK party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who used the term 'power grab' which Carwyn Jones has now stopped using.

Acknowledging the different stance taken by Welsh Labour, Mr Corbyn said 'devolution sometimes throws up interesting answers. That is what devolution is about: people making their own decision.'

Privately Welsh Government sources say the difference is between being in government as the Labour party is in Wales and in opposition as it is in Edinburgh.

That's reflected too in the official position as articulated by a Welsh Government spokesperson:

Plaid Cymru has sought to highlight the differences between Welsh Labour's agreement and Jeremy Corbyn's support for the Scottish Party.

Plaid's leader Leanne Wood has written to the Labour leader:

When the vote is held later, only Plaid Cymru AMs are expected to vote against granting consent. Labour AMs are expected to vote to give consent along with the Liberal Democrat and Independent members of the Welsh Government, Conservatives and UKIP AMs.

In Edinburgh, Scottish Labour is expected to vote alongside SNP, Lib Dem and Green MSPs to deny consent.