Brexit: ‘Radical change is needed for UK to survive’

Jeremy Miles AM
Image caption Jeremy Miles, who is also counsel general, believes fundamental changes need to be made to the UK

For the UK to survive, the UK government’s approach to devolution needs to “change fundamentally”, Wales’ Brexit minister has warned.

Speaking at the Eisteddfod, Jeremy Miles urged Westminster to change its “get what you’re given” attitude.

He said the Labour-led Welsh Government still believed in the UK.

However, as a “voluntary association of nations”, a “catastrophic” no-deal EU exit could make Wales question its place in it.

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns responded by saying he had delivered a “clear and stable devolution settlement” that gave Wales more powers.

Mr Miles said: “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.”

During his visit to the Welsh cultural festival in Llanrwst, Mr Miles called for “radical change”, saying “if the union is going to survive”, it needs to be based on “mutual respect, parity of esteem and participation”.

He recommended a constitutional convention addressing how the UK works, warning that a no-deal Brexit threatened to dismantle the union.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson visited a chicken farm before meeting First Minister Mark Drakeford last week

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the UK’s nations as he prepares to leave the EU on 31 October.

He said he hoped to leave with a deal, but added that it was “very much up to” the EU.

However, Mr Miles said: “No level of preparation can properly mitigate the effects of a catastrophic no-deal exit.”

He believes Mr Johnson’s visits to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has brought the union’s future to “centre stage”.

In Scotland, where a majority of people voted to remain in the EU, the SNP is intent on a second independence referendum.

And in Northern Ireland, where most people also voted to remain, Sinn Fein wants a poll on a united Ireland if there is a hard Brexit.

Mr Miles said there was renewed interest in Wales – where the majority of people voted to leave the EU – in what happens if another nation left or if a no-deal exit from the EU proved “catastrophic”.

Image caption Mr Miles will be delivering his speech on the union at the National Eisteddfod

“We believe that the UK is a voluntary association of nations, so it follows that we also recognise that some component parts of the UK may no longer choose to be part of it,” he said.

“And if that were to happen, any sensible government would have to reassess Wales’ place in a changed UK.”

However, he said the Welsh Government’s priority was to “remain [in] and reform” the unions of the UK and EU.

Responding for the UK government, Mr Cairns said Wales now had more powers and “a fair financial settlement”.

“The Welsh Government also now has power over income tax, implemented in just the past few months,” he added.

“These recent changes have delivered clarity on devolution and accountability for the Welsh Government and has met our commitments in the St David’s Day Agreement.

“I am proud of my record of joint working with Welsh Government ministers, focused on delivering better outcomes for Wales.”

Source: bbc.co.uk

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