Brexit: Time against us on devolution deal, Carwyn Jones says

Carwyn Jones
Image caption,
Carwyn Jones arriving in Downing Street for the talks

Time is running out for a deal between the Welsh and UK governments over key Brexit legislation, First Minister Carwyn Jones has warned.

Speaking before meetings with Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, he called the UK government's latest offer on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill "insufficient".

Welsh and Scottish ministers have said the bill is a Whitehall "power grab".

Mrs May said she wanted a deal that "reinforces our union of nations".

Following the meetings Mr Jones said: "Progress had been made I am not in a position yet to recommend to the National Assembly that we should give our consent to the withdrawal bill".

He added: "I am hopeful that we will be in a position in the next few days - no more than a week or two I would say, as time is running out but we are not there yet."

Mr Jones had said before the meeting that talks were "at a crucial stage".

"We want to resolve this and are committed to continuing to try to seek agreement before the bill finishes its passage through parliament, but time is against us.

"That is why we will continue to progress our Continuity Bill through the National Assembly, but as we have said repeatedly, this is only a fall-back option.

"Just last week at the JMC (EN) [Joint Ministerial Council European Negotiations] we and the Scottish Government put forward a number of ideas about how we could move forward from the UK Government's proposals and I look forward to discussing these with the prime minister."

'Protect security and prosperity'

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill aims to ensure the rules currently set by European law still apply in the UK after Brexit, while giving the UK Parliament power to change them.

Under the current bill, without the amendments, powers in devolved areas that are currently wielded at EU level, such as agricultural support are set to return to Westminster rather than Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.

Last week, UK ministers announced the list of powers that they would retain at a UK level, for a temporary period, including food labelling and agricultural support.

But an agreement has yet to be reached to finally resolve the row over the division of responsibilities post-Brexit.

Image source, Getty Images

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "Following on from discussions in the JMC, the first minister and the prime minister agreed that they should continue to work together to find an agreement".

Before the meeting Prime Minister Theresa May said: "At this important meeting with the devolved administrations today, I will be making clear my commitment to a deal that brings our country together, protects the security and prosperity of all our communities and business sectors, and reinforces our union of nations."

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns told the Commons there was "no intention of any power grab".

Speaking at Welsh Questions, he said: "Out of the 64 areas that relate to Wales, we have already said that 30 will pass without any need for any further agreement or - at the very most - an informal agreement between the UK government and the devolved administrations.

"There are 24 areas where it's in the interests of businesses in Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland and in England to have common practices so we can protect the UK market. Eighty per cent of Welsh output is sold to the rest of the UK."