Advertisement

Ministers from all UK governments meet in Cardiff to try to avoid post-Brexit breakdown

Welsh ministers will host counterparts from the UK Government, Scotland and Northern Ireland in an effort to avoid a breakdown in relations Credit: PA

Ministers from the UK Government will meet their opposite numbers from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in Cardiff today, the first time since a Brexit row which could lead to a full-blown constitutional crisis.

Michael Gove will be at the talks to lead efforts to try to smooth over the division which was caused by votes on the law to implement Boris Johnson's Brexit deal.

That law passed all its parliamentary hurdles last week despite all three devolved institutions refusing to give it their consent.

Such consent motions are triggered when UK legislation affects devolved areas. They aren't legally binding on ministers in London but in the past have largely led to changes.

This time, however, ministers in London decided to enforce their legal right and override the views of the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies and the Scottish Parliament.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay wrote to Wales' Brexit minister, Jeremy Miles saying that the UK Government would not normally ignore consent motions but that 'the circumstances of our departure from the European Union are specific, singular and exceptional.' He made similar assurances in the Commons chamber too.

Michael Gove MP will attend the talks Credit: PA

Unlike the SNP Scottish Government, the Labour Welsh Government privately wants to avoid a constitutional clash with Westminster but can't ignore the fact that on one of the most important pieces of legislation in modern times, its views have been overridden.

So Welsh ministers will be looking to today's JMC meeting to see the assurances I mentioned earlier put into action. It'll require serious concessions from London and clear statements of intent from Michael Gove and other cabinet members.

Even then it might not be enough. The Scottish Government wants another independence referendum and believe recent events have only bolstered its arguments. In Northern Ireland too, Stormont has only recently reconvened and is smarting from having one of its first major decisions ignored.

The Brexit crisis may be over but the difficulties and divisions it caused are only just beginning to become clear.

Speaking before the meeting, Michael Gove was playing up the positive potential of the talks:

Ahead of the UK leaving the European Union on Friday, today I will be in Cardiff to meet with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments to discuss moving forward together, as one United Kingdom.

2020 will be a year of growth and opportunity as we level up across all four corners of the country and strengthen our Union. This has started positively with the restoration of Executive in Northern Ireland, and I look forward to seeing First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill back around the table today for the first time since 2017.

– Michael Gove MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

The First Minister says the talks are a chance for the UK Government to back up their warm words with actions.

Wales must be fully involved in this next stage of negotiations to speak up for Welsh jobs, businesses and communities.

Today is a chance for UK Government to show its commitment to the UK as a whole and bring forward proposals to involve devolved administrations in the negotiations ahead.

Positive words must be matched by positive actions.

– MARK DRAKEFORD AM, FIRST MINISTER