Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns writes in the Western Mail
Twenty years ago, the people of Wales voted to create a National Assembly and for that legislature to have the responsibility for a range of powers.
As we prepare to mark the anniversary of that constitutional milestone, we are now engaged in another historic mission which will see the UK leave the European Union and start the process of bringing a range of new powers back from Brussels to UK shores.
The EU Withdrawal Bill will return to Parliament later this week for its second reading. lt is a Bill that is designed to ensure that the UK exits the EU with maximum certainty, continuity and control from day one.
The Bill is also about supporting our economy by providing clarity for business about our approach and the type of regulations they will have to work with in future.
And there is a good deal of common ground between the UK and Welsh governments when it comes to the Bill.
Both governments agree that a UK approach will be required in certain areas to maintain the benefits of the UK internal market. We also agree that there are powers that have been in the hands of Brussels that should be transferred to Cardiff.
And city deals have shown that devolution doesn’t need to end at Cardiff Bay, powers can also be devolved deep into local communities.
It is important to recognise that all nations of the United Kingdom are represented in cabinet discussions by each respective Secretary of State. I am proud to be the voice for Wales, carefully considering the requirements of industry and our growing economy alongside other politicians with sometimes differing views.
The UK Government has a strong record on devolving powers to Wales. In April next year, the Wales Act will give the Assembly extra powers over transport, energy, electoral arrangements and income tax rates.
We will maintain our strong record on devolution not only in Wales, but also in Scotland, Northern Ireland and cities and regions across the whole UK.
But it is in nobody’s interest for there to be gaps in the law at the point where the UK departs the EU. Neither is it in anybody’s interest to create any new obstacles or costs inside the UK as we leave the EU. That means that there will be a need for a common UK approach in a number of areas.
For example, it wouldn’t make sense if a food producer based in Wales had to print different labels to sell their products in England because of different regulations. Not only would it harm trade within the UK, it could make us a less attractive place for other countries to strike trade deals with.
So today, First Secretary of State Damian Green and I will meet Carwyn Jones to discuss frameworks for the UK market. I will also be chairing the first of what will be regular meetings with our Expert Implementation Panel for Wales to help deliver a smooth and orderly exit from the EU in Wales.
As we return control from the EU we want to ensure power sits closer to the people of the UK than ever before. Throughout this process, every single decision currently taken by the Welsh Government or Assembly will be preserved. And as talks progress, we fully expect more powers to flow from Brussels to Cardiff Bay. That is the opposite of a power grab and such claims by some politicians deserve real scrutiny.
We have been clear that bringing powers back from Brussels to Westminster is a temporary arrangement to allow for detailed discussions between the two governments in Wales about those areas where we will need to continue working together, with common frameworks of rules, and areas which do not need common approaches and can be devolved directly to Cardiff Bay.
The UK Government wants every part of the UK to prosper from leaving the European Union. The potential in every corner of Wales is of vital importance to me and the UK Government as we exit the EU.
As we leave the EU, we have a very real chance for the UK to forge a new role for ourselves in the world. This requires a positive and responsible approach from those in government. Our aim should be to work together to ensure the best deal for Wales and the whole UK.
It is certainly a time of significant change, so it is all the more important to provide certainty to businesses and industries that create and sustain jobs all across Wales. But amid the change there are real opportunities, like agreements announced in Japan last week by the Prime Minister.
What Damian Green and I are doing today, meeting face-to-face with the First Minister in Cardiff and bringing people together from Welsh industry, is demonstrating that the UK Government will listen and act in the best interests of the Welsh economy.
I am confident that we can make real positive progress during our meetings in Cardiff today and together we can make a success of Brexit for Wales and the UK.