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Brexit not a devolve

UK Government ‘must be held to account’: Labour AM Eluned Morgan believes Wales should have a seat at Brexit negotiating table


could have little say in forthcoming Brexit negotiations as UK ministers will not be ‘legally compelled’ to consult with devolved legislatures prior to triggering Article 50. The Supreme Court ruling, which

was announced on Tuesday (Jan 24) following a four-day hearing in December, saw justices unanimously determine: “Relations with the EU are a matter for the UK Government.” The ruling also established that

Prime Minister Theresa May must go through Parliament before she can trigger Article 50 and begin the two- year process of negotiating Brexit. May had hoped to bypass MPs

by using royal prerogative powers; however, on Tuesday, Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger announced that, by a majority of eight to three, justices had ruled that ‘the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an Act of Parliament’. The UK Government had appealed a previous High Court ruling which had

Dan Muller

established a similar judgement. The Welsh Government had fiercely

objected to UK Government attempts to avoid a parliamentary vote, making a representation during December’s Supreme Court hearing to voice their concern. The legal challenge, overseen by

Wales’ Counsel General Mick Antoniw AM, argued that a parliamentary sidestep would go against the principles of devolution and the Sewel Convention – which requires AMs to vote on legislation affecting the Welsh devolution settlement. As part of his announcement

centred on ‘devolution issues’, Lord Neuberger said on Tuesday: “The Sewel Convention plays an important part in the operation of the UK constitution, but the policing of its scope and its operation is not a matter for the courts.” Speaking to BBC Wales after the ruling, Mr Antoniw described

‘Bring it on’: Wales UKIP Leader Neil Hamilton says if other parties try to block Brexit, a General Election would be imminent

the outcome as a ‘victory in terms of upholding the sovereignty of Parliament’. In addition, Mr Antoniw told AMs

on Tuesday that the Welsh Assembly ‘would expect the UK Government to respect the Sewel Convention, so that Parliament has the opportunity to listen to the Assembly and to the other devolved legislatures’. The Counsel General added that

there was ‘every likelihood’ of a Senedd vote, ‘because a trigger bill will impact on Welsh legislation’. Whether this vote would hold any

significance remains to be seen as it would likely rest on the reaction of the UK Government. Meanwhile, Welsh Assembly

members and party leaders were quick to respond to news of the ruling, with many still calling for Wales to have a voice in the forthcoming negotiations. In a statement issued on Tuesday,

Mid and West Wales Labour AM Eluned Morgan said: “It was utterly hypocritical of a government in its

first action to withdraw from the EU to undermine the Commons – the forum which represents the democratic voice of the people. Let’s not forget that many people voted to leave the EU because they wanted to re-assert British control. That control must be determined through Parliament.” Having expressed how the UK

Government ‘must be held to account’, Ms Morgan added: “It is disappointing that the Courts determined that the Sewel Convention is not as legally watertight as we had hoped. We should, however, expect the UK Government to honour the fact that Wales has responsibility of vast areas of policies which up until now have been determined in Brussels. These areas include agriculture and environment. “When the UK leaves the EU, these

responsibilities must come directly to Wales and when these matters are discussed in the negotiation, Wales should legitimately be demanding a seat at the negotiating table.” Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas

said: “This matter is a political decision rather than a legal one. The National Assembly for Wales has to have a say whether the UK Government could continue with the process of leaving the EU.”

He added: “It is a simple matter

of democracy and natural justice. If Prime Minister Theresa May gags Wales’ voice there will be constitutional consequences. The Welsh voice must be heard.” In a party statement, Conservative

Shadow Secretary for Europe Mark Isherwood stated: “Today’s ruling was expected, and ultimately straightforward; relations with the EU and other foreign affairs matters are entirely reserved for the UK and to the UK Parliament. “The Welsh Government’s

tortuous arguments were an expensive sideshow.” He continued: “It would have been

better if every effort had been focused on delivering a Welsh Government

paper on Brexit before the UK Government announced its negotiating strategy. “Naturally we respect the Supreme

Court’s decision, and I am pleased to note that the UK Government remains committed to triggering Article 50 by the end of March.” It is worth noting that Isherwood’s

comments refer to figures obtained by the Welsh Conservatives via a Freedom of Information request which showed Welsh Government expenditure for their court representation to be just over £84,000 – this covered legal fees of £79,000, with the remainder covering travel and accommodation. The UK Government has – on several occasions – refused to reveal the costs associated with its Supreme Court appeal; however, last year it was reported that its legal fees could run into the six figures. Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader

Mark Williams stated: “I welcome today’s Supreme Court ruling. This decision shows that the sovereignty of Parliament is paramount and that the British people must be given a voice in what happens next in the Brexit negotiations. “Only the Liberal Democrats

are calling for the people to be given a say on the final Brexit deal. This process started with democracy and must end with democracy, and we will vote against triggering Article 50 without that commitment from the UK Government. “It would be wholly unacceptable

for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to be left in the dark on this historic decision. The UK Government must absolutely respect the devolved settlement of Britain and the right of the devolved parliaments to shape our withdrawal from the EU.” UKIP’s Leader in Wales, Neil

Hamilton, also welcomed news of the Supreme Court judgement, adding: “If Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP want to throw a spanner in the works and block the UK from leaving

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