Talk of Brexit power-grab behind us, claims UK minister

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Media captionDamian Green says talk of a post-Brexit power-grab is “behind us”

A “significant step forward” in Brexit talks between the UK and Welsh governments has been claimed by Theresa May’s deputy.

First Secretary Damian Green said “talk of a power-grab is now behind us”.

He spoke after discussions in London between the UK, Welsh and Scottish governments.

Despite an agreement at the meeting, the Welsh Government has not dropped its threat to oppose the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Wales’ Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford met Mr Green and the Scottish Government’s Brexit minister Michael Russell at the first joint ministerial council meeting on the EU since February.

Mr Green said the meeting agreed principles to assess interactions between the UK and devolved governments on negotiations with the EU.

Both the Welsh and Scottish governments have claimed the EU Withdrawal bill amounts to a “power-grab”.

They have objected to plans to hand all powers from the EU to Westminster institutions first before deciding which should be devolved.

According to a statement issued after the meeting, ministers agreed that “common frameworks” would be established to enable the functioning of the UK internal market after Brexit.

The frameworks would respect the devolution settlements, the statement said.

Mr Green said: “I think you’ll see from the principles that we’ve agreed today that talk of a power-grab is now behind us.

“We’ve agreed that obviously there needs to be ways we preserve the UK single market so that we don’t damage business in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland but that we fully respect the devolution settlements.

“We expect this to end with more powers going to the devolved administrations than they’ve had under the previous arrangement.

“The Scottish, the Welsh and the UK governments have signed up to these principles and I think that’s a very significant step forward.”

But Mr Drakeford said the agreement “doesn’t mean that we have stepped back at all from our opposition to the Withdrawal Bill”.

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Media captionMark Drakeford said the Welsh Government is still opposed to the EU Withdrawal Bill as currently drawn up

He told BBC Wales: “We’ve always said that we’ve shared the UK government’s ambitions to make sure that there is an orderly conduct of business in the UK, that we can make sure EU law can be put into UK law in an orderly way.

“We’ve never disagreed with what was trying to be achieved. But, we’ve always said that the way to do that is by agreement – by getting round the table, sharing responsibilities and finding ways forward to which everyone is committed.

“That is the opposite of the way the Withdrawal Bill sets out.”

Meanwhile members of the Welsh Assembly have said that the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is “open to listening”, following a meeting with him in Brussels on Monday.

However, David Rees, who chairs the external affairs committee, said AMs were “frustrated” that Brexit Secretary David Davies would not submit himself to questioning in Cardiff about the matter.

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