First Minister issues warning to PM over taking money and power from Cardiff

Welsh Affairs Committee
Welsh Affairs Committee (PA Wire)
19:32pm, Thu 03 Jun 2021
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Boris Johnson could cause the break-up of the United Kingdom if he decides to “steal powers and steal money” from the Welsh Government, Mark Drakeford has warned.

Wales’ first minister said he was “clear” with the Prime Minister that schemes introduced in the wake of Brexit were “counterproductive” to preserving the union.

The Welsh Government has argued the UK Government’s Internal Market Act will curtail the Senedd’s powers when it comes to food or environmental standards, and says the Shared Prosperity Fund allows Westminster to spend money on devolved areas under the jurisdiction of Cardiff Bay.

Following Thursday’s coronavirus recovery summit between the four UK nations, Mr Drakeford said he had been frank with Mr Johnson about the effect of Westminster’s actions.

Mr Drakeford told the PA news agency: “I did have to be as clear as I could with the Prime Minister that if the UK Government thinks that the best way to meld the United Kingdom together is to steal powers and steal money away from the Welsh Government, then that is deeply, deeply counterproductive and has completely the opposite impact when we have to do things differently from now on.”

The First Minister said Wales was better off inside the UK, but that its future should be based on “parity of respect” between its four nations.

“What today was about was me advancing the case for the way in which the United Kingdom succeeds is not by one part of it taking things away from others and say it will rule the roost and make decisions,” he said.

“I want a United Kingdom in which all four nations, on a basis of parity of respect and parity of esteem, come around that table to share ideas and make decisions where we have common interests.

“That is, I think, a successful recipe. Making the United Kingdom somewhere that people want to be part of in the future, rather than feeling that somehow one part of the United Kingdom thinks it has the whip hand of everyone else.”

Mr Drakeford said the Prime Minister had now committed to a regular meeting between the four nations to discuss issues such as the country’s pandemic recovery and the future of the UK.

He said the rearranged summit was “respectfully and well conducted” and had a “proper agenda” compared to the proposed meeting postponed by him and Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon last week.

Thursday’s summit, held virtually, was also attended by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and took in subjects including the economic impact of coronavirus and the recovery of the UK economy.

“We ended by talking about how we can better share our experiences, the health service dealing with a backlog of treatments in schools, how we can help our children make up for the time that they’ve lost,” Mr Drakeford said.

“And in that sense the meeting did have a proper structure and an opportunity for all participants to make a proper contribution.”

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