Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has said the UK Government’s internal market proposals are a ‘significant step backwards’ for devolution.
The plans, drawn up by Ministers in London, will establish a new mutual recognition regime which could require food standards in one part of the UK to be automatically accepted in others.
The UK Government intends to bring forward legislation which would enshrine the rules in law.
The Bill would also create an external body to stop devolved administrations from passing legislation which distorts domestic trade.
Speaking at an NFU Cymru seminar at the virtual Royal Welsh Show, Mr Drakeford said: “We put a huge amount of time and energy and effort into the common framework discussions we have been conducting over the last three years.
“It is then very disappointing to see a White Paper in which all of that work is simply set aside.
“The internal market proposals from the UK Government are that they will set the rules, we will have to follow them, and if we disagree with any of it, the UK Government will arbitrate on any disputes.
“That fundamentally weakens our ability to stand up for things which are important here in Wales.”
The First Minister went on to say the ‘most worrying’ part of the UK Government’s plans was the potential for Welsh environmental and food safety standards to be undermined if another nation chose to import sub-standard produce.
“We would not be able to use our powers as we have them today to say ‘that does not match the standards we require here’, and inevitably, that will drive people in Wales to think of ways they can compete against those lower standards,” he said.
Mr Drakeford was speaking after Michael Russell, Scotland’s Constitutional Affairs Secretary, wrote to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove to say the Scottish Government would never accept the proposals.
Kevin Morgan, a professor at Cardiff University, warned in a separate Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) seminar that the issue would ‘accelerate the push’ for Scottish independence.
“Scotland is prepared to go to the Supreme Court to defend the devolution settlement,” he said.
“Personally I think this will accelerate the push for Scottish independence and make the future of Wales uncertain.”