'Power grabs, grubby excuses and imperial intentions'

David Mundell MP
Image caption 'We have listened....and we will bring amendments forward' - Scottish Secretary David Mundell

The Brexit talks may have stalled but the politics is so fast-moving it will probably have changed by the time I get to the end of this sentence.

As I write, MPs are holding their latest debate on the key Brexit legislation, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. So far, the government has won every vote with majorities ranging from 10 to the hundreds.

Amendments put forward by the Welsh and Scottish governments were defeated in the early hours of Tuesday morning but that is not the end of the story.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell has become the first UK cabinet minister to confirm that the UK government will make changes to its own bill to address concerns about its impact on devolution.

"We have been very, very clear," he told MPs. "The committee stage of this bill is about listening, it's about adapting to issues that have been brought forward. We have listened....and we will bring amendments forward to [the controversial] clause 11."

His comments, made during Scottish questions in the House of Commons, were arguably more significant than some of the hours of debate devoted to the bill.

Mr Mundell said the amendments would be brought forward at report stage, later on in the bill's parliamentary journey, but it remains to be seen if they will be enough to win the backing of the Scottish and Welsh governments.


Scottish questions was followed by questions to the prime minister, where Theresa May was put on the spot on the same issue. Plaid Cymru's parliamentary leader Liz Saville Roberts laid into "the imperial British government's intentions spelt out in red, white and blue".

The source of her wrath? A speech on Monday by Monmouth Tory MP David Davies, in which he acknowledged the bill would lead to a "power grab" - the main source of most devolved anger over the legislation.

Ms Saville Roberts asked Theresa May if she'd admit "that the scrabble to repatriate powers from Brussels provides a grubby excuse to deny our democratic rights in Wales."

Unsurprisingly, the prime minister chose not to concede the point: "You know full well that what David Davies was saying was that what we will be doing when we leave the European Union is grabbing powers back from Brussels to the United Kingdom and that's exactly right. And following that we do expect to see a significant increase in the decision-making power of devolved administrations as a result of that. And that is absolutely right."


So who is right about what David Davies said? Plaid Cymru enjoyed his comments so much they've made an online video of them. It is true that he did say: "It is a power grab, of course it is a power grab, a wonderful power grab it is too."

But he also added - as the video acknowledges but Liz Saville Roberts did not - "We are grabbing those powers from Brussels and bringing them back to London."

In other news, Clwyd West MP David Jones is enjoying a higher profile than he did during his years in government. The former Welsh Secretary and Brexit Minister has been (by invitation) touring the broadcast studios this week, sometimes stepping in where government ministers decline to tread.

This encounter on the Victoria Derbyshire programme allows Mr Jones to catch up with his old foe, Scottish Brexit Minister Mike Russell. Enjoy.