Wales politics

Brexit Party's election campaign to scrap the Senedd

Mark Reckless
Image caption "Devolution has gone so much further" than some people thought it would, according to Mark Reckless, the Brexit Party's leader in the Senedd

The Brexit Party will campaign in next year's Senedd election to scrap the current system of devolution.

Mark Reckless, leader of the party's group in the Welsh Parliament, said "devolution has gone so much further" than some people thought it would.

He is proposing a directly-elected first minister and getting rid of members of the Senedd (MSs).

The last Welsh barometer poll suggested around 22% of people supported abolishing the Welsh Parliament.

But in a multiple-choice question, the highest level of support was for leaving the settlement as it is (24%), followed by a Senedd with more powers (20%) and Welsh independence (16%).

Image caption Adam Price MS said developments over the last few months had shown the importance of having a separate Welsh Government.

'Protect our people'

Plaid Cymru's leader hit back at Mr Reckless and said people's understanding and awareness of devolution was at a "high watermark" as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Adam Price dismissed the Brexit Party's support for scrapping the devolution system as an attempt to turn Wales "into western England".

"What is the message of the Brexit Party in this regard? It's not just abolishing our democracy, it's abolishing Wales," he told the BBC's Politics Wales programme.

"Is anyone seriously, when we look to the last three months, at the more careful, reasonable, thoughtful approach that the Welsh Government has shown in recent months compared to the reckless policy, the dysfunctional policy of bumbling and blustering its way through the crisis that we've seen from Boris Johnson, do we really want to take the powers that we have to protect our people and give them to Number 10 Downing Street in these circumstances? Absolutely not."

Speaking to the same programme, Mr Reckless said under his plans a directly-elected first minister would be scrutinised by Welsh MPs.

He questioned the value of having the Senedd and its members in addition to MPs in Westminster.

"A lot of people who haven't engaged with devolved politics now see the powers this place has, and many of those people would prefer to be governed on a UK basis rather than having things done differently in Wales just for the sake of it, as so often has been the case under Mark Drakeford," he said.

The Brexit Party's four MSs are its biggest group of politicians now that the UK no longer has members of the European Parliament (MEPs) following its departure from the European Union.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage does not "micromanage" the party in Cardiff Bay, says Mr Reckless

Mr Reckless said party leader Nigel Farage is "consulted over key decisions... but he doesn't micro-manage us here".

He said he did not "rule out" a potential rebrand of the party, as had been reported.

The Brexit Party has been very critical of the Covid-19 lockdown measures.

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Image caption Formerly the Welsh Assembly, the Senedd Cymru - Welsh Parliament has been based in the Senedd in Cardiff Bay since 2006

Asked if he believed there should be another Wales-wide lockdown, he replied: "We think it's much better to trust people's judgment. The individual knows best.

"I think what we'll see is that many more people will stay at home.

"But the idea that you tell people how many times they should exercise... I don't believe there's science for that.

"I also believe that interference with people's lives is so great when the evidence is so very limited."

Pushed on whether he was against another lockdown in the event of a steep rise in coronavirus cases, he said: "I think it should be a last resort, and I think the time when you really need to do that is if infections are at such an extent that it threatens the capacity of our health services to cope.

"I think that is a good reason for closing schools, for government intervention, in order to stop that.

"But actually, I think when we look back it was that handwashing, it was a degree of social distancing, it was more people staying at home voluntarily that saw the infection rate begin to come down and meant that capacity in the health service wasn't overcome in that way."

Former First Minister Carwyn Jones said the idea showed the Brexit Party "cannot stand the idea of Wales as a nation."

"So much for respecting the result of referendums [devolution referendums in 1997 and 2011] but let's not forget that this is really a play to get re-elected to the Senedd by appealing to a minority in the hope of getting above 5% in his region," he added.

BBC Politics Wales is on BBC iPlayer.

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