Welsh Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths has accused the UK Government of being ‘determined to provoke a constitutional conflict’ with its EU Withdrawal Bill.
She made the confrontational remarks at NFU Cymru’s annual conference in Llandrindod Wells this week.
The Scottish and Welsh Governments have previously threatened to withhold consent for the Bill because it contains a ‘power grab’ clause which would prevent the devolved regions from passing new laws on agriculture.
Last month, the Prime Minister’s deputy, Damian Green, met key figures from the devolved regions to discuss the issue and afterwards declared ‘talk of a power grab is now behind us’.
But today, Ms Griffiths said: “If there is one point about Brexit I want to stress to you, it is this.
“The EU Withdrawal Bill introduced by the UK Government in July seeks to constrain Welsh Government’s powers to protect farmers’ interests in Wales.
“The Bill seeks to bypass Governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and our position on this is clear – we will not accept it.
“I want to continue to protect the interests of Welsh farmers. The Welsh Government will not back a Bill which takes away our influence over areas which are rightfully ours to control.
“Unfortunately, the UK Government appears determined to provoke a constitutional conflict we really do not need at a time when we should all be solely focused on the big question of Brexit.”
UK Ministers have repeatedly said they expect the devolved regions to end up with more powers than they currently enjoy, but a leading law professor has suggested the clauses in the EU Withdrawal Bill are ‘fundamentally wrong’ and need amending.
As Ms Griffiths spoke at the conference, NFU Cymru welcomed her endorsement of a previous promise from the First Minister to ring-fence spending for Welsh farming after Brexit.
NFU Cymru President Stephen James said: “I am pleased the Cabinet Secretary, Lesley Griffiths AM, has reaffirmed the commitment from the First Minister that funding for Welsh agriculture from the UK Government to the Welsh Government will be ring-fenced for Welsh farmers post-Brexit.
“NFU Cymru’s message on future funding arrangements has been clear and unequivocal.
“Governments in Cardiff and Westminster must maintain current levels of investment for farming in Wales, to ensure Welsh farmers remain competitive and can continue to produce food to the highest standards whilst maintaining and enhancing our environment and meeting our climate change obligations.”