Wales politics

Brexit: AMs call for bill to protect EU laws in Wales

Leanne Wood and other Plaid AMs
Image caption Leanne Wood and other Plaid AMs were seen laughing after their motion passed

Bizarre scenes in the Senedd have seen AMs back calls for the Welsh Government to protect EU laws after Brexit.

Plaid Cymru wants a Continuation Bill passed in response to the UK government's proposal to hold EU powers at Westminster before devolving them.

A majority of AMs backed the idea, but only after it was put to them thanks to a farcical vote where 39 AMs abstained and only nine voted in favour.

Plaid leader Leanne Wood said it was a "major victory".

AMs can pass non-binding votes in the assembly which do not change government policy, but act as an expression of what they want to see happen, in what are known as motions.

On Tuesday, Plaid Cymru tabled an amendment to a motion criticising the UK government's Great Repeal Bill that proposed an assembly law to put on the Welsh statute book all European regulations related to devolved areas.

After the Conservatives and Labour abstained, it passed despite just nine Plaid AMs backing it.

It meant the proposal was included with the original statement criticising the Great Repeal Bill and was effectively voted on again - this time with 37 AMs from Labour and Plaid supporting it.

16 voted against from the Tories and UKIP and Plaid's Neil McEvoy abstained.

The move does not mean a bill will happen, but it may be used by opposition AMs to challenge the government on what it does next, especially as Labour AMs were among those who supported it.

The Great Repeal Bill was criticised by First Minister Carwyn Jones and Plaid after ministers proposed a "holding pattern" for EU laws in areas like agriculture to go to the UK government temporarily first.

Mr Jones said power in devolved areas should "come to us", and Plaid claimed a Continuation Bill would protect Wales' constitution from a "power grab".

The vote in favour came despite the fact that, during a debate on the repeal bill, Mr Jones did not explicitly back Plaid's proposal.

But he said he had "no objection to continuing discussions" on it.

Steffan Lewis, Plaid's external affairs spokesman, said: "We wanted the UK government to agree with our proposals for bringing the governments of the UK together to agree common frameworks after we leave the EU.

"Unfortunately they have rejected those.

"Now that the assembly has agreed there should be a Continuation Bill, it means we can have clarity on the Welsh constitution and we can uphold the decision of the people of Wales in two referenda on devolution and we can enshrine in Welsh law those European rights and standards we cherish."

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