Wales politics

Raise Brexit stakes, Plaid Cymru urges Welsh ministers

Wales flag on European Commission

The Welsh Government needs to raise the "political stakes" on Brexit, Plaid Cymru's Steffan Lewis has said.

The party's external affairs spokesman said action from ministers to get Wales Brexit-prepared was "flatly non-existent".

He spoke as he launched a paper claiming the UK government's Brexit bill effectively ignored the results of the two assembly referendums.

Welsh Government said it is seeking "the best possible Brexit for Wales".

Plaid Cymru and the Labour-led Welsh Government had published a joint white paper on Brexit in January, demanding full single market access.

But last week Plaid broke off its co-operation agreement with Labour - known as the compact.

"I would urge Welsh Government to look again at its strategy of being a friend of the UK government under any circumstances, and start looking now at how it can create the political leverage and context to maximise the opportunities for Wales," said Mr Lewis.

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Media captionSteffan Lewis said the "clock was ticking" on protecting Welsh devolution under Brexit

The South Wales East AM called on the Welsh Government to press ahead with legislating for its own EU continuity bill, which First Minister Carwyn Jones has said he would back if he felt the Westminster legislation threatened the powers of the assembly.

"We've got to a critical point now where standing by and waiting to see what concessions we can win by being passive are over," Mr Lewis said.

"We have to act more decisively.

"Whilst there's been some very useful interesting documents published over the summer on fair movement of people and so on, the action of the Welsh Government to get Wales Brexit prepared as best it can is flatly non-existent.

"It is crucial for the Welsh Government now to raise the political stakes," he added.

"It's not being reckless but it means manoeuvring constitutionally… to force the UK government to come out and justify the power-grab that it is about to enact."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Since the UK voted to leave the EU we have consistently sought to secure the best possible Brexit for Wales."

"That includes a detailed position paper with Plaid Cymru in January as well as securing substantive changes to the UK government's approach to issues like the need for the fullest access to the single market and a transition deal.

"We are also working closely with the Scottish government to ensure that the Withdrawal Bill does not undermine the constitution and the devolution settlement.

'Existential threat'

A paper written for Plaid Cymru by written by Fflur Jones of law firm Darwin Grey argued that the EU Withdrawal Bill poses an "existential threat" to the current devolution settlement, saying it needed "significant amendment".

The EU Withdrawal Bill sets out how powers from Brussels will be returned to the UK - enshrining European law into domestic law.

Ministers in Westminster have decided powers will be given to London before being handed to the devolved institutions.

But it has been dubbed a "power-grab" by critics, including the first ministers of Wales and Scotland.

Plaid activists campaigned to remain in the EU at the June 2016 referendum, when Wales voted to leave.

A UK government spokesman said: "This bill is not about taking away the decision-making from the devolved administrations - we have made clear that no decisions currently taken by the devolved administrations will be taken from them."

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