Devolved leaders call for Brexit role at Cardiff talks

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Reuters

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The JMC meeting was held at Cardiff City Hall

Leaders of the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have pressed for a greater role in Brexit negotiations during talks with Theresa May in Cardiff.

The Scottish and Welsh governments have produced plans that would allow them to keep full access to the single market.

Mrs May has warned that the devolved administrations will not be given a decisive role in Brexit talks.

The Welsh government said its differences were “not irreconcilable”.

But the Scottish government said ahead of the meeting that its proposals were not being taken “remotely seriously” and that a joint position with the UK government was not “anywhere close”.

Movement and trade

Mrs May will later continue to Dublin for talks with Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny.

Mr Kenny has called for the maintenance of the current “seamless border” between Ireland and Northern Ireland, after the UK leaves the EU, amid fears that a “hard Brexit” might reimpose controls on movement and trade.

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PA

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Theresa May attended the Joint Ministerial Committee meeting before travelling to Dublin for talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Ahead of Monday’s talks in Cardiff, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that time was running out for the prime minister to “heed the voice of Scotland”.

She said the meeting would be one of the most important since the EU referendum.

“It comes at a crucial juncture, with the clock ticking down to the triggering of Article 50 and with, so far, no sign whatsoever that the UK government is taking Scotland’s position remotely seriously,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“The JMC (Joint Ministerial Committee) meeting in Cardiff is another chance for the prime minister to heed the voice of Scotland and those of the other devolved governments – and she must take the opportunity to do so.”

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Nicola Sturgeon has accused the prime minister of not taking the Scottish government’s position seriously

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PA

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Sinn Fein’s new leader, Michelle O”Neill, has called for Northern Ireland to be given a special status within the EU

Monday’s agenda includes proposals for alternative settlements for the devolved administrations as well as ideas on helping British businesses to trade and invest in the run-up to Brexit.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, who was Northern Ireland first minister until recently, was at the talks.

Also attending was Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill, who accused the UK government of trying to impose Brexit against the will of the people in Northern Ireland and in Scotland.

“The Tory government have effectively set aside the democratic process to pursue their own narrow political agenda. We need all of those opposed to Brexit to stand together,” she said.

“I will lay out the reasonable and achievable objective of the north being designated special status within the EU.”

‘Firm commitment’

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones called for “open and frank discussions” and said he would call on Mrs May to uphold pledges made during the referendum campaign that Wales would not lose funding as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

Mr Jones spoke to Mrs May ahead of the main meeting, with the first minister raising his concerns about the UK’s government’s handling of Donald Trump’s immigration order.

He also welcomed a “firm commitment” from the prime minister that Brexit would not be used as cover for a “land grab” on devolved powers.

There were also discussions about full single market access, and its importance to the Welsh economy.

A spokesman for the Welsh government said: “The positions are not identical, but not irreconcilable at this stage”.

Mrs May has already highlighted that the Supreme Court had set out “beyond doubt” that relations with the EU would be decided by the UK government.

“We will not agree on everything, but that doesn’t mean we will shy away from the necessary conversations and I hope we will have further constructive discussions today,” she said.

“We have also had the Supreme Court judgment which made clear beyond doubt that relations with the EU are a matter for the UK government and UK parliament.

“We should not forget that that means MPs representing every community in the UK will be fully involved in the passage of Article 50 through parliament.”

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