A disorderly, chaotic exit from the EU represents an existential threat to the United Kingdom itself, the Welsh Government’s Counsel General and Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles will say today.
Speaking at the National Eisteddfod in Conwy, the Brexit Minister will warn that a hard or no deal Brexit is certainly capable of dismantling the Union.
He will call for the UK government to recognise the need for radical change in the UK’s constitutional arrangements to make it fit for the 21st century whether we leave the EU or not, whilst saying that Wales is best placed as part of a reformed union.
Jeremy Miles will say:
“It would seem to me that no deal preparation is our new Prime Minister’s top priority. But he seems oblivious to the fact that no level of preparation can properly mitigate the effects of a catastrophic no deal exit.
“His grand tour of the devolved nations, and the markedly public focus and pace he has brought on preparing the UK to leave, has brought centre stage not only the hard or no deal Brexit he espouses but also the question of the future of the union.
“Increasingly – certainly here in Wales, and now to some extent more broadly – there has been a renewed interest in what Wales would do if a hard Brexit brought about the departure from the Union of other nations, and indeed in any post-Brexit scenario – if the consequences for us of a no deal Brexit are as catastrophic as we believe they would be.
“We believe that the UK is a voluntary association of nations, so it follows that we also recognise that some component parts of the United Kingdom may no longer choose to be part of it. And if that were to happen, any sensible government would have to reassess Wales's place in a changed UK.
”So let me be clear about the Welsh Government’s position. We continue to believe in the union.
“In an increasing globalised world, we do not think it makes sense to give up on making the relationship we have inherited with our closest neighbours work to our mutual advantage – we believe that the sharing of risk and reward across the 4 nations is to the benefit of all our citizens. We want the Union to work, and to work better.
“Our priority is to remain and reform - within the union of the United Kingdom as with the European Union - make the best use of the devolved powers we have, press the case for new ones, but all within a United Kingdom that continues to offer Wales the advantages we currently enjoy through its membership.
“This involves a major programme of change.”
The Welsh Government has been in the vanguard in arguing for that change.
2 years ago, Welsh Ministers published ‘Brexit and Devolution’, the Welsh Government’s response to the implications of Brexit for the devolution settlement, for relations between the governments, and for the constitution of the UK. It set out their vision for the future of devolution and intergovernmental relations.
Ministers called for:
- A UK Council of Ministers, and for better dispute resolution
- An independent secretariat, perhaps based on what already exists for the British Irish Council
- A UK constitutional convention, to address the question of how the UK’s constitution needs to change.
The Counsel General will also say:
“Even without Brexit, it is clear that the attitude of the UK government to devolution needs to change fundamentally. Currently, it seems still to have a profound ambivalence about devolution. Or worse, an attitude that if we behave ourselves, the UK government will out of the goodness of its heart, allow us some limited powers of self-government. A ‘get what you’re given’ type of devolution.
“That needs to change. We need an approach to devolution based on mutual respect, parity of esteem and participation between the various governments, rather than the ‘grace and favour’ devolution we currently have.
“If the union is going to survive and if Wales’ best interests are going to continue to be served by the union – it is time now for the principles of equality between the nations and subsidiarity to be enshrined at the very heart of our constitution.”