(Title Image: Cardiff University)
With the First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West), only just having been officially sworn in as First Minister, he immediately faces moderate embarrassment after the UK Supreme Court ruled that Scotland’s version of the Continuity Act was at least partially lawful.
Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP and Conservative AMs voted last month to repeal the Welsh version – which enshrined EU law in devolved areas into Welsh law – following an agreement reached by Mark Drakeford (as then Finance Secretary) and the UK Government.
Plaid Cymru supported the introduction of the Bill as a way to stave off what they saw as a UK Government “power grab”.
Under the Welsh-UK Government agreement, EU laws and powers relating to devolved matters would be retained by the UK Government until there’s agreement with the devolved nations on how they would be legislated for or applied to UK-wide frameworks – what’s been described as “being put in the freezer”.
The Scottish Government rejected the agreement and pursued the matter to the Supreme Court.
Plaid Cymru has demanded an apology:
“Mark Drakeford’s whole argument for repealing the Welsh Continuity Act was premised on his belief that the Scottish Government would lose the Supreme Court case over their equivalent Bill.
“He said that if Scotland lost they would have nothing, while Wales would still have its paltry agreement with the UK Tory Government.
“Drakeford’s wager backfired in spectacular fashion. Scotland won which means their powers are legally protected.
“It is Wales, therefore, that is left with nothing but a bad deal which gives away Welsh powers to Tory ministers with no guarantee we will ever get them back.”
– Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr)
The Supreme Court ruling (pdf) states that while the Bill as a whole fell within the Scottish Parliament’s powers, the Scottish Continuity Act falls foul of constitutional law by amending the Scotland Act 1998.
However, they also ruled that the Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate in devolved areas affected by Brexit and to prepare for new powers which would come to them as a result of Brexit (which was effectively what the Continuity Act was at least partially designed to do).
Nonetheless, large sections of the Continuity Act were now void because of retrospective changes made by the UK’s EU Withdrawal Act.