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Warnings that Wales’ role in UK-EU relations has diminished since Brexit

WALES’ role in UK-EU relations has greatly diminished since Brexit, with open democratic debate replaced by diktat and decisions made in the shadows, MSs warned.

Huw Irranca-Davies, a Labour backbencher, led a debate on a Senedd constitution committee report following an inquiry into UK-EU governance.

He said the UK’s relationship with the EU remains of considerable importance to citizens in Wales and continues to affect many aspects of people’s lives.

The former MP raised evidence from witnesses that the role of devolved governments in UK-EU decision making has diminished post-Brexit.

Calling for a dedicated EU strategy, Mr Irranca-Davies, who represents Ogmore, also urged the next first minister to re-constitute a European advisory group.

The committee chair was disappointed the Welsh Government accepted only five of 20 recommendations in full in its response despite agreeing with the spirit of the report.

Deriding the “take back control” slogan used in the 2016 referendum, Alun Davies raised concerns about a shift in power from parliamentary democracy to executive diktat.

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The Labour MS warned that governance of the relationship with the EU has gone from open democratic debate to the shadows of civil service and minister-to-minister decision-making.

Mr Davies highlighted a transfer of power from Wales to Westminster, telling MSs: “That’s not been done by democratic debate or decision. It’s been done by removing the rights of this place to legislate in a way that the people of Wales through referendum have sought.”

Mr Davies, who represents Blaenau Gwent, said Wales helped shape decisions as part of the EU but: “Today, we can barely find a pass to get into the building.

“Our ability to influence decisions that have a real extraterritorial impact on people in Wales today has not simply been diminished, it’s been removed.”

James Evans, a Conservative, who represents Brecon and Radnorshire, raised concerns about Wales losing its voice in governance arrangements.

He said the European Commission and UK Government could make unilateral decisions to change withdrawal agreements without any devolved oversight.

Mr Evans backed the committee’s call for the Welsh Government to be given a full role at the partnership council and continue to have observer status at all relevant meetings.

Adam Price criticised the Welsh Government for no longer monitoring policy and legislative developments across the European Union as a matter of course.

He said: “This is the most important market for Wales – it’s still very significant indeed – if we want to access that market, to know what is happening in terms of regulation.”

Mr Price argued Wales should follow Scotland in continuing to align regulations with the EU and he called for Wales to join networks such as the Assembly of European Regions.

The former Plaid Cymru leader raised concerns that only one Senedd member has so far been funded to visit Brussels since the 2021 election..

His colleague Delyth Jewell, who chairs the Senedd’s international relations committee, reiterated calls for a dedicated EU strategy from the Welsh Government.

Rhys ab Owen criticised the UK Government for withdrawing funding that enables Welsh organisations to take part in the domestic advisory group and civil society forum.

Mr Owen, who sits as an independent, said: “This is a clear inequality of power, as it will mean that Welsh organisations are being cut out of important conversations.”

Responding to the debate on February 21, Mick Antoniw said UK ministers rushed negotiations and initial implementation of the trade and cooperation agreement.

Wales’ constitution minister echoed Mark Drakeford’s warning that substantive changes to the UK-EU relationship are unrealistic until after this year’s general and European elections.

“These provide real opportunities on both sides for fresher engagement and a more positive spirit looking forward,” said Mr Antoniw. “We will do all we can to facilitate and support that.”

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