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Jones in legal showdown with the Welsh Assembly over Sargeant report

It’s been a dramatic week in Welsh politics as Carwyn Jones’ government threatened the Assembly with legal action over a bid by AMs to force the publication of an inquiry into the sacking of Carl Sargeant.

Wales Online reports that Dame Shan Morgan found that there were no unauthorised leaks from the Welsh Government ahead of Sargeant’s sacking in connexion with sexual misconduct allegations.

Another report cleared Jones of misleading the Assembly over claims of a ‘bullying culture’ in his administration, finding no “reports or allegations” of specific instances and no “convincing evidence” of a broader, toxic culture.

Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Tories, and other opposition groups had been pushing for the Morgan report to be published in full, prompting Jones to threaten the legislature with legal action. In the event Labour was able to win the vote by 29 votes to 26, in what Davies has called ‘a dark day for democracy‘.

Government to challenge devolved Brexit bills in court

The Guardian reports that the Government is challenging the legality of so-called ’emergency’ Brexit legislation passed by the Scottish and Welsh legislatures.

Jeremy Wright, the Attorney General, said that ministers will ask the Supreme Court to rule on whether or not the devolved chambers have the power to legislate for Brexit, which as a constitutional and foreign policy matter seems to fall into areas reserved to Westminster.

Whether or not this legislation is proper has already been hotly disputed, with the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament ruling in February that it does not have the authority to legislate for matters currently overseen by another body.

Dodds accuses EU of ‘bully-boy tactics’ over border

Diane Dodds, the Northern Irish MEP from the Democratic Unionists, has attacked Donald Tusk over his handling of the issue of how the Irish border will work post-Brexit, according to the News Letter.

She pushed back against the idea that the problem was Britain’s alone to solve, arguing that the EU also shared the responsibility for finding “pragmatic solutions to what are mutual challenges”, and added that her party had not yet reached the point where it was prepared to rule out a ‘no deal’ Brexit in the face of an unacceptable deal.

Dodds also reiterated the DUP’s ongoing opposition to any sort of ‘special status’ which would see Ulster economically separated from mainland Britain, with which it does the great majority of its trade.

The DUP are Northern Ireland’s largest political party and, unlike most other regional parties, campaigned to leave the European Union in the referendum. Since then they have developed a close working relationship with the Conservatives, including a formal pact after the 2017 general election.

In related news, Sinn Fein have attacked the Government for making a British passport a requirement for a score of new posts being advertised at the UK Border Force.

Taking the usual line of citing a breach of the Belfast Agreement, the republican party insist that people who reject British citizenship should be able to police the British border. However, it is difficult to see how this particular bit of ‘discrimination’ is unjustified.

SNP MSP calls for ‘constitutional convention’ ahead of second independence vote

Alex Neil, an SNP member of the Scottish Parliament, has called on Nicola Sturgeon to convene a ‘constitutional convention’ to create a cross-party consensus on even more powers for the Scottish Parliament, according to the Edinburgh News.

It adds that Neil doesn’t believe that a second independence referendum can be called and won by the next Holyrood elections in 2021, at which the separatists may well lose their combined majority in the legislature – and he clearly believes that “more powers!” is the best way to advance their cause in the interim.

Crucially, one of the issues he wants passed down is control over future referendums. This would give a future Nationalist administration complete control over the timing, phrasing, and franchise of any future vote to break up the United Kingdom.

Given how obvious it is that the SNP believe that round after round of devolution serves their interest, the failure of the unionist parties to challenge the “more powers!” narrative is really rather damning.

(If you’re interesting in hearing more about my case against the Scottish Parliament, I was discussing it with the New Statesman‘s Jonn Elledge this week on the CityMetric podcast. Listen here.)

Meanwhile Henry McLeish, a short-lived and ill-starred former First Minister who is carving out a new role as the Labour guy who supports independence, has come out in favour of another referendum in the next five years. The Herald reports that his case is that a ‘fraudulent’ prospectus was placed before Scottish voters in the 2014 referendum.

By this he isn’t referring to the nonsense-on-stilts White Paper published by the SNP – whose unravelling has, Alex Massie argued in the Times this week, left the separatists with a “credibility issue” – but the idea that people voted ‘No’ on the basis of the UK’s EU membership.

 

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