The cold war between the two Governments with jurisdiction over Wales continued this week, with Mark Drakeford offering a rather icy analogy over the stand off: “Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said: “If I was trying to explain this to somebody who isn’t close to it all, I would say this: the UK government wants to take some responsibilities that are today held by the national assembly and put them in a freezer that would be held here at Westminster. The three issues we wanted to talk about today was how do those items get put in the freezer – who decides that’ll happen?”
At the heart of the problem lies the view of the UK Government that it will decide which powers are specified for the deep freeze and when Brexit happens, and which might be devolved to Wales. It has previously been described by the Welsh Government as an unnecessary row, a position which has wide agreement in the Assembly chamber.
To shed some light on what has until now been a relatively abstract disagreement, the UK Government has today published a provisional analysis of the returning EU powers that will result in the devolved administrations of the UK receiving extensive new powers as we Brexit. This document makes clear that the vast majority of the repatriated powers will pass to the Welsh Government immediately upon Brexit, including carbon capture and storage; water quality; charging of HGVs; and onshore hydrocarbon licensing. But it also indicates there are 24 policy areas that the UK Government says are “expected to require a UK legislative framework and where it is intended that existing EU rules and regulations will rollover into UK law for a temporary period” and we now have clarity that these will include: animal health and traceability; food and feed safety and hygiene law; food labelling; and chemical regulation.
This clarity is helpful. The onus is now on Welsh Government to produce its own Continuity Bill to argue a different position that these things should automatically reside with Welsh Government competence from day one and to try and ensure this is legally so.
The freezer has been bought and paid for. We now know what the UK Government to store in it until Christmas. There’s still a wrangle with the kids wanting to keep some of the goodies out on the table unfrozen but at least now we know what those comestibles are. And we know that the freezer temperature has been set – for now – to zero minus twenty four degrees.