The Senedd reject Boris’ Brexit bill despite Wales voting leave

Yesterday, Cardiff joined Belfast and Edinburgh in rejecting Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement.

This comes after the Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, pleaded with Jeremy Miles, the Welsh Brexit minister, to support the decision taken by the people of Wales in 2016.

Wales’ vote share in favour of leaving the European Union, 52.5%, was marginally higher than the average throughout the United Kingdom, and yet Welsh Labour have actively attempted to obstruct Brexit.

Only 15 of the 60 Welsh assembly members backed the deal, with all representatives from Labour, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the sole independent AM in opposition.

Of the 15 in favour, eleven came from the Conservative Party, where all 11 of their AMs backed the deal. But the Tories were accompanied by the four members from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in support Britain’s agreed withdrawal from the EU.

Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, took a shot at Labour’s decision to refuse consent by saying that: ‘we should be more optimistic and not adopt the Welsh Government’s sometimes dour approach of doom and gloom.’

Despite the decision taken in the devolved parliaments, Boris Johnson is expected to implement his Brexit deal, and therefore, the United Kingdom will cease to be a member of the European Union at 11pm on the 31st of January.

Nevertheless, the disagreements between the devolved institutions and Westminster has created two problems, especially in Wales.

Firstly, it could create issues for the Union. Under the Sewel Convention the government is advised not to press ahead with legislation when devolved parliaments have rejected it.

However, this is not the first bill that has not had the consent of Stormont, Holyrood and the Senedd. Research by the Institute for Government found that there have been 352 consent motions, of which 13 have not received complete consent.

Nevertheless, Akash Paun, a representative of the Institute for Government, gave clarity on the legal ramifications of refusing to accept devolved disapproval.

Paun said: ‘Legally it’s true that the UK Parliament is sovereign so if there’s a majority in support of the legislation, which there is in Westminster, then the absence of consent doesn’t actually create any legal obstacles but it’s not to say it doesn’t matter.’

This prompted Plaid Cymru to regard the disagreement as an example of why Welsh independence should be considered as a real alternative, citing that this is not a Union of equals.

Rising star in the Welsh nationalist ranks, Delyth Jewel, declared that the bill ‘threatens Welsh powers, removes parliamentary oversight of the negotiations, takes away the rights of child refugees, workers and EU citizens and unnecessarily rules out an extension to the negotiating process, making a bad deal or even no deal at all the most likely outcome’.

Secondly, Labour’s refusal to support the bill could further Labour’s calamitous performance in Wales and by the 2021 assembly election, the Welsh Conservatives could make significant gains in Brexit-backing constituencies and regions.

While the first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, declared that the decision was ‘not about blocking Brexit’, many Welsh politicians and more importantly Welsh voters perceive this as a continuation of Welsh Labour’s opposition to Brexit.

Mark Reckless, the former UKIP and Conservative MP, reacted to Labour’s decision by saying that this was a ‘futile anti-Brexit stunt’.

He added that: ‘no matter how many times the Welsh people tell you they want Brexit you don’t want to hear it.’ It is this sort of opinion that could spark further breaches in Labour’s Welsh red-wall.

In the December election, Labour lost half a dozen seats in Wales, in what was the Tories best Welsh performance ever.

Boris Johnson’s party gained Wrexham, a seat held by Labour since 1935. And other Brexit-backing seats could fall into Johnson’s hands if Welsh Labour continue to rubbish the decision taken by 854,572 of their compatriots.

By J Walters

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