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Friday, March 31, 2017

Does the Great Repeal White Paper threaten to unpick the devolution settlement?

Over on Twitter, former Assembly Minister, Leighton Andrews poses an interesting question. He suggests that chapter four of the Brexit Great Repeal White Paper could involve the unravelling of all the devolution settlements.

A reading of the relevant chapter shows that he has a point. In particular the white paper says:

4.4 To provide the greatest level of legal and administrative certainty upon leaving the EU, and consistent with the approach adopted more generally in legislating for the point of departure, the Government intends to replicate the current frameworks provided by EU rules through UK legislation. In parallel we will begin intensive discussions with the devolved administrations to identify where common frameworks need to be retained in the future, what these should be, and where common frameworks covering the UK are not necessary. Whilst these discussions are taking place with devolved administrations we will seek to minimise any changes to these frameworks. We will work closely with the devolved administrations to deliver an approach that works for the whole and each part of the UK.

4.5 This will be an opportunity to determine the level best placed to take decisions on these issues, ensuring power sits closer to the people of the UK than ever before. It is the expectation of the Government that the outcome of this process will be a significant increase in the decision making power of each devolved administration.

4.6 Legislation that is within the competence of the devolved legislatures or ministers giving effect to EU law will also need to be amended as we leave the EU. We therefore propose that the Bill also gives the devolved ministers a power to amend devolved legislation to correct law that will no longer operate appropriately, in line with the power we propose should be held by UK ministers.

So the last Wales Bill was not the final word on the powers available to the Welsh Assembly after all. This goes beyond European issues, it gives Carte blanche to UK Ministers to re-open the whole devolution debate and review the whole range of powers and responsibilities available to Welsh Ministers, including those agreed through referendum.

Welsh Ministers will need to be on their guard.
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