Senedd Members to vote against UK Government's controversial Brexit bill

Illustration of the UK's internal market
Welsh Government says it could be prevented from actions such as banning single-use plastic bags by the new rules

Senedd members will try again today to hold a vote which could see some UK Government post-Brexit plans rejected by the Welsh Parliament. 

They'll discuss whether or not to agree to the UK Government's controversial Internal Market Bill which has been criticised by some for undermining devolution. 

The vote should have happened last night but technical problems meant the Senedd session had to be abandoned.

Yesterday's proceedings will be resumed at 1230, an hour before the scheduled plenary session begins. 

MSs are likely to reject it, forcing the UK Government to decide whether or not to impose it as it affects areas over which the Senedd has control.

Members of the Scottish Parliament have already voted against giving it consent.

The Bill is designed to replace European Union rules and regulations which currently shape the relationships of trade and investment here in Britain. 

  • What is the Internal Market Bill and does it break international law?

Ministers in London have argued the new law is needed to ensure a "level playing field" for businesses in all four nations of the UK.

They say it will "protect trade and jobs across the UK by preventing new burdens on business when the Transition Period ends."

For example, a clothes manufacturer in Wales would have to follow the same subsidy and tax rules as a similar firm in Scotland or Northern Ireland. 

UK cabinet ministers say the changes will ensure a smooth transition for businesses trading mainly in the UK.

The UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma has previously said that “Now is not the time to create uncertainty for business with new barriers and additional costs that would trash our chances of an economic recovery.”

But the Welsh Government says the new rules would limit its powers to act, for example by preventing Welsh ministers from banning single-use plastic bags.

Under the internal market rules, they wouldn't be able to prevent businesses from other parts of the UK from using single-use plastic bags.

The bill has been described as an “attack on democracy” by the Welsh Government’s Counsel General who has said it will “steal powers” from devolved administrations. 

Jeremy Miles has also said that “The UK Government is explicitly seeking to rewrite the devolution settlement. The fact that they are also seeking primary legislation shows they are taking those powers from us. We believe in the principle of an internal market – but this bill is not remotely necessary to deliver it. We will do everything we can to challenge the power grab and the race to the bottom which this bill represents.”

The devolution settlement requires the UK Government to seek the consent of the UK's parliaments and assemblies but it isn't legally obliged to change course if consent isn't given.

At the beginning of the year, it ignored consent votes on the Withdrawal Bill but said that that was a unique occasion in specific circumstances.

The vote will take place in the Senedd on Tuesday evening.

Speaking ahead of today’s vote, Plaid Cymru’s spokesman Dai Lloyd also called the bill an “attack on Welsh democracy” but said that the Welsh Government should share some of the blame for allowing it to progress early on in its development. 

“The Internal Market Bill drives a coach and horses through the devolution settlement. Plaid Cymru warned of this in our initial response to the Bill, and now three consecutive Senedd Committees have reached the same conclusion.

“The Bill would see Welsh democracy undermined in the guise of creating a ‘single internal market’ and would give the Tory Westminster government greater powers over Wales. 

“In repeatedly placing their trust in the UK Government and in this Union, and consistently refusing to countenance Welsh independence, history will judge the Welsh Labour Party to be complicit in this attack on Welsh democracy.”

Welsh Conservatives and other parties are expected to back the bill.

Mandy Jones, a former UKIP MS who's a member of the new Reform group said:

"It's sad that some politicians are trying to use the internal market bill to relive the 2016 referendum.

"We in the Reform group will be support the internal market bill as it helps deliver on the result of the referendum, brings powers from Brussels to the Senedd in a number of devolved areas and strengthens our United Kingdom.”

The Welsh Government have described the Bill as a "direct attack on devolution."

Meanwhile, the UK Government has confirmed that it will withdraw another controversial part of the bill following a breakthrough agreement with the EU.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and  European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič issued a joint statement following talks on issues including the effect of leaving the EU on Northern Ireland.

The joint statement said “an agreement in principle” had been reached and in light of that, the UK Government will withdraw clauses in the Internal Market Bill which could have broken international law by overriding the Withdrawal Agreement. 

It isn’t related to the trade agreement talks which are moving into an intense final phase with a face-to-face meeting planned between the Prime Minister and the European Commission President. 

However, it does represent the end of one of the biggest confrontations between the two sides.

The controversial clauses had only been re-inserted to the legislation when the bill returned to the House of Commons yesterday 

MPs voted to restore sections which had been removed by the House of Lords.