'A bit early' to outline new assembly powers post-Brexit

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It is "a bit early" to say exactly which extra powers the Welsh Assembly will get after Brexit, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has said.

But the Conservative minister told assembly members he expected devolution in Cardiff Bay would be "extended".

The UK government's EU Withdrawal Bill aims to transfer existing EU powers to UK law post-Brexit for "continuity".

First Minister Carwyn Jones has argued the bill would take powers away from the devolved administrations.

Mr Cairns has previously said the assembly will eventually see a "significant increase" in their decision-making power after EU powers are repatriated to the UK.

He spoke at a joint meeting of the assembly's Brexit and constitutional committees considering the EU Withdrawal Bill on Monday.

Asked which powers would subsequently be passed on to the Senedd, the Welsh secretary said: "It's about doing the right thing for business as well as to ensure that we offer the greatest certainty and continuity in what is quite an uncertain period as we negotiate to leave the European Union.

"It's a bit early yet to say what exactly [will be devolved] but we're making good progress in terms of mutual understanding of where it is right for businesses in Wales to want to have that continuity of regulations," he added.

image captionBrexit Minister Robin Walker said the UK government wants powers to sit closer to the people

Plaid Cymru AM Steffan Lewis responded: "It was you who used the terms 'substantial new powers' for the National Assembly and it seems from your answers that they haven't been identified whether they're substantial or not.

"Surely it's not possible to say whether they'd be substantial new powers in the first place?"

The Welsh secretary said officials were working through the 64 areas of EU powers that affect issues that are devolved to Wales.

He added: "We expect the powers of the assembly to be extended."

Brexit Minister Robin Walker, also giving evidence, said there was a process in place for ministers in Westminster, Wales and Scotland "to discuss the powers that are returning".

"I can't pre-empt that process in terms of setting out specific powers," he said.

"The clear intention of the government, as we set out in our white paper, is for powers to sit closer to the people across the UK."

After giving evidence in the Senedd, the UK government ministers met representatives of Welsh businesses, universities and the voluntary and farming sectors which form part of the Welsh secretary's expert panel on Brexit.

Following a meeting with Theresa May in Downing Street last week, First Minister Carwyn Jones said there was progress with regards to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

But he added that it "needs to change so the warm words that we hear are reflected on the face of the bill".

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