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Article 50

Volume 622: debated on Wednesday 8 March 2017

1. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on the process for triggering article 50. (909071)

I encourage the whole House to recognise that today is International Women’s Day. Events are taking place here in Parliament and across government.

I have regular discussions with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to ensure that our exit from the EU is a success. As members of the European Union Exit and Trade Cabinet Committee and the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations), we are committed to working closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure that exiting the EU has a fair and strong outcome.

I join the Secretary of State in welcoming International Women’s Day.

At yesterday’s sitting of the Exiting the EU Committee, the Welsh Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford, voiced concerns about the UK Government using Brexit to grab new powers over such things as farming and fishing, which should without question go directly to Cardiff and Edinburgh under the existing devolution settlements. Can the Secretary of State give a cast-iron guarantee that there will be no such attempt to undermine and row back on devolution?

We have already said that no decisions currently taken by the devolved Administrations will be removed from them. We will use the return of decision making from Europe back to the UK to strengthen devolution and the Union.

On behalf of the people of Wales, will my right hon. Friend tell the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union that nobody—not the unelected House of Lords or anybody else—is going to stand in the way of the will of the Welsh people to have their freedom?

My hon. Friend reminds us that Wales voted to leave the European Union at the recent referendum. There is an obligation on the Government and on both Houses of Parliament to accept its outcome.

9. A hard Brexit would be bad for jobs in Wales. Blaenau Gwent has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, yet the Department for Work and Pensions proposes shutting Tredegar jobcentre. Will the Secretary of State meet me to talk about supporting the people of Blaenau Gwent into work? (909079)

I will happily meet the hon. Gentleman, although I do not necessarily recognise his message about our approach to Brexit—we want a deal that works for every part of the United Kingdom.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the fact that unemployment across Wales is lower than the UK average, which is remarkable considering the industrial heritage of constituencies in Wales such as the hon. Gentleman’s. I will happily work with him on the issues he raises in connection with the Department for Work and Pensions.

In his evidence to the Brexit Select Committee yesterday, Cabinet Secretary Mark Drakeford also said that the Welsh Government were, disgracefully, not made aware of the UK Government’s 12-point Brexit plan or their White Paper. What is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that the Plaid Cymru-Welsh Government Brexit White Paper is fed into the article 50 letter and accompanying documents?

The Welsh Government’s White Paper on exiting the European Union was considered by the Joint Ministerial Committee at the end of February, and we have a significant amount of common ground. The Welsh Government talk about “unfettered access”, while my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has talked about “frictionless” access and trade. We can work on the basis of a lot of common ground, and I am optimistic that we will continue to work in a positive environment with the Welsh Government and the other devolved Administrations to secure a Brexit deal that works for every part of the United Kingdom.