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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: Legislative Consent Motion

Volume 633: debated on Wednesday 13 December 2017

4. What recent discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on a legislative consent motion for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. (902831)

I hold regular discussions with Welsh Ministers on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. At the end of November, my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State and I met the First Minister again as part of our ongoing bilateral discussions. Yesterday, Mark Drakeford and representatives of other devolved Administrations met at the Joint Ministerial Committee to consider further details.

I have asked the Secretary of State a number of times, both orally and in writing, what would happen if the National Assembly for Wales were to withhold its consent for the withdrawal Bill, and he has gone from looking hopelessly Panglossian to being unsure, evasive and even furtive. Will he now tell the House what would happen if the National Assembly for Wales withheld its consent for the Bill?

May I add to the hon. Gentleman’s descriptions by saying that I am optimistic? I am optimistic that our work with the Welsh Government will lead to a legislative consent motion. After all, we should be focusing on the outcomes that communities and businesses want while respecting the constitutional settlement of the United Kingdom. I am sure that he and I will want the best outcomes for businesses, and that is what we are focusing on.

Given the result of the referendum, should not any Government who claim to represent Wales—and indeed any party that claims to be the party of Wales—support this Government and this Prime Minister in delivering the legislative consent motion and the Brexit that the people of Wales voted for?

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. Any politician from Wales needs to recognise and respect the outcome of the referendum. That is what the Government are working to deliver. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is a largely technical piece of legislation, but we expect the decision making of the Welsh Government to increase while we also protect the integrity of the UK market to ensure that Welsh businesses continue to prosper in the way that they are now.

Thank you, Mr Speaker; it is great to be back. I have missed you all so much. I thank everyone for their good wishes and support while I was away, and I give massive thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) for standing in for me at last month’s Question Time.

Does the Secretary of State agree that unless his Government agree a common approach with the devolved nations in advance of phase 2 of the negotiations that is based on proper consideration of the evidence, it is unlikely that the Welsh Government will pass a legislative consent motion ratifying the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill?

We are working closely with the Welsh Government, and we have had another productive meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee at which proposals were made, which will rightly be considered. The First Secretary of State and I met the First Minister just a couple of weeks ago, and that built on an ongoing relationship across Government that involves positive engagement not only with the Welsh Government, but with the businesses, local authority leaders and chief executives, and communities that will benefit from our leaving the European Union.

I thank the Secretary of State for his response—I think. Does he agree that the UK Government could avoid clashing with the Welsh Government by agreeing to amend the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on Report, by involving the Welsh Government in drawing up amendments to prevent the power grab, and by agreeing common frameworks, which would stop the Welsh Government putting in place their own legislation, which is worked up, in position and ready to go?

As we leave the European Union, we are determined to deliver as much certainty and continuity as we can. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill focuses on delivering that, and I am sure that that is really what the Welsh Government want. After all, we should be focusing on the outcomes. This is about providing a framework in which businesses and communities can prosper. This is where politics needs to fit business and community need, rather than that of politicians.