Welsh Government threatens legal action over controversial Brexit bill

16 December 2020, 17:39

The Welsh government have notified the UK government of their plans to take legal action.
The Welsh government have notified the UK government of their plans to take legal action. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

The Welsh Government has told Boris Johnson and his ministers that it may take legal action if the controversial UK Internal Market Bill is enacted.

Describing the bill as an “outrageous attack” on the Welsh Government’s powers, the Welsh Counsel General said he had “formally notified” the UK Government of his intention to battle it out in court.

The legislation is required for when Britain finally departs the EU's single market and customs union, at the end of the transition period on 31 December.

Read more: Christmas bubbles in Wales reduced to two households before full lockdown

On Thursday, a stand-off between the Lords and the government over the bill ended after ministers brought forward concessions following concerns about over-centralisation of power in Westminster.

Following a number of defeats by the Lords, the government made changes that will allow the devolved administrations to diverge from internal market rules through so-called “common frameworks”.

However, the Welsh Government appears to still believe that the legislation goes too far.

Read more: Brexit: Ursula von der Leyen says there is 'path to agreement'

Read more: Covid confusion: Four nations divided over PM's Christmas guidance

Counsel General Jeremy Miles MS, who is also Minister for European Transition, wrote in a statement that the “provisions in the Bill are...so wide and deep in operation that they risk constraining the legislative space” for the Welsh government in devolved matters.

He added: “The Bill will today complete the process of Commons Consideration of Lords Amendments.

Read more: Boris Johnson says no-deal Brexit remains 'most likely outcome' as talks continue

“If the Bill is enacted in its present form, this would leave the ambit of the devolution settlement in Wales uncertain and undermined.

The statement argues that the powers within the Brexit bill would open the possibility of “very wide substantive future amendment” to the 2006 act which gave the Welsh government their powers, risking “serious diminution” of Welsh power “at the hands of the UK government”.

Read more: Wales Christmas Covid rules: What is a Christmas bubble and what are level 4 restrictions?

Mr Miles adds that he believes this key “constitutional legislation cannot lawfully be cut down in this way” and that the Welsh may take the UK government to court.

The statement notes that the Welsh government have “asked for a response from the UK government within 14 days”.

LBC has contacted Downing Street for comment.

Read more: 'New variant' of Covid-19 confirmed in Wales

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Welsh minister David Davies responded to concerns over the impact of the bill on the powers of the devolved nations.

"The Prime Minister is showing his commitment to the importance of powers for the Scottish and Welsh governments at this very moment in Brussels where he is standing up against those bureaucrats who are trying to take powers away from the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government," he argued.