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Senedd votes to withhold consent to part of a UK trade agreement bill

Counsel General Mick Antoniw

THE SENEDD voted to withhold consent to part of a UK trade agreement bill due to the “threat” posed to Wales’ constitutional principles and devolution settlement.

Mick Antoniw raised concerns about the Trade bill, which aims to ensure the UK complies with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Wales’ constitution minister warned that clause two of the bill – on product conformity checks – undermines the devolution settlement and allows the UK Government to act unilaterally.

Mr Antoniw, who is also counsel general, the Welsh Government’s chief legal adviser, said UK ministers maintain that clause two falls within powers reserved to Westminster.

He told MSs: “There is a principle at stake, the principle that implementation of international obligations in devolved areas is for the devolved institutions and not the UK Government.”

Luke Fletcher, Plaid Cymru’s shadow economy minister, raised concerns about the number of legislative consent motions (LCMs) coming before the Senedd in recent years.

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He said: “The increasing use of LCMs by the UK Government … speaks to their disregard for the devolved administrations, as well as their damaging centralising agenda.”

Mr Fletcher criticised the CPTPP trade agreement, warning that it is a poor replacement for previous EU trading arrangements that will lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

He pointed to the example of tariffs being lifted on palm oil imports, “which will have devastating consequences for deforestation and biodiversity, globally”.

Mr Fletcher added: “The partnership also includes a number of countries that have poor records on human rights, and the agreement has pitiful provisions on labour.”

Huw Irranca-Davies, who chairs the Senedd’s legislation committee, welcomed engagement between the Welsh and UK governments even though they were ultimately unable to agree.

Mr Irranca-Davies backed the Welsh Government making representations on international obligations, saying: “This is of crucial importance and interest to this Senedd.”

The Labour backbencher, who represents Ogmore, urged Welsh ministers to build on the approach for future international trade agreements.

Mr Antoniw urged the Senedd to reject clause two but recommended members back clauses three and four on government procurement and geographical indications respectively.

Plaid Cymru voted against both LCMs, which do not bind UK ministers, while the Tories backed both, with the final tallies falling in line with Mr Antoniw’s recommendations.

On the same day, March 12, MSs also agreed to give consent to the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) bill which includes a ban on live export for slaughter.

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