Skip to main content

The UK will leave the EU, but the UK Government cannot trigger ‘Brexit’ by overriding the laws and conventions of the British constitution, the Counsel General for Wales, Mick Antoniw has said.

First published:
4 December 2016
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

The Counsel General has said throughout the Brexit process that he will not work against the referendum result - but neither will he support a negotiating position that is damaging for Wales.

Last month, the High Court ruled the UK Government cannot use the Crown Prerogative to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which would begin the process of the UK withdrawing from the EU.

During a four day hearing before the Supreme Court, due to begin tomorrow, the UK Government will appeal the decision.  

The Counsel General also confirmed the Welsh Government’s legal team will argue that the High Court’s judgement should be upheld by the Supreme Court.

During the appeal hearing, the Welsh Government will argue that:

  • Giving notification under article 50 will modify the legislative competence of the National Assembly and the powers of the Welsh Government under the Government of Wales Act 2006 and should be authorised by primary legislation;
  • Any modification of the National Assembly’s legislative competence by primary legislation passed by the UK Parliament would engage the Sewel Convention, under which the Assembly’s consent would be sought to any changes to its legislative competence.

Mick Antoniw said:

“The people of the UK voted to leave the European Union, I respect that decision and we will not work against the referendum result. While Brexit will happen, the UK Government cannot trigger it by overriding the British constitution. They need to act within the law. We heard a lot about ‘taking back control’ during the referendum campaign – ignoring the governance arrangements of the UK is not a good start to that process.

“Leaving the EU will lead to significant changes to the devolution settlement in Wales – only the UK Parliament can make those changes, which should be with the agreement of the National Assembly for Wales.  The UK Government does not have the power to short-circuit this important mechanism for dialogue between the democratically elected National Assembly for Wales and the UK Parliament, by using the prerogative in this way.

“In the Supreme Court, the Welsh Government will argue the process of leaving the EU must be carried out within the law, which includes respecting and adhering to the constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom and the legal framework for devolution.

“That’s why the Welsh Government’s legal team will argue that the judgment of the High Court should be upheld, and that an Act of Parliament is required for the UK Government to give notice under Article 50.”