WALES must not lose out either financially or by a loss of devolved powers when the UK leaves the European Union, AMs have said.
Speaking during a debate on the Brexit process today, first minister Carwyn Jones said it was important Wales played a role in the negotiations.
“There are many challenges ahead,” he said.
“That much is true.”
He added it was important the UK Government recognised the wishes of the Welsh people demonstrated in the 1997 and 2011 referendums for devolution and did not use the Brexit process as a way to regain powers.
“We want to work with the UK and our devolved counterparts on the basis of mutual respect and parity of esteem,” he said.
Mr Jones, who campaigned in support of the Remain campaign ahead of last June’s referendum, also said the UK Government would be held to account over promises Wales would not lose out financially when Britain leaves the EU.
“We will hold those who made that promise to that promise because Wales gets around £680 million annually in EU funding,” he said.
“We do not expect that money to stick to someone’s back pocket in Whitehall.”
He added: “The people have spoken, and there is no going back to the referendum result last year.
“But it’s absolutely crucial that, as we look forward, we minimise disruption and we ensure that the growth of the Welsh economy over the last few years is not jeopardised over the decade to come.”
Leader of the Assembly’s Ukip group Neil Hamilton said, while he was in favour of leaving the EU, he agreed the devolution process must not be damaged as a result.
“There must be no going back on the devolution settlement, and the powers that have been devolved to this Assembly must not be eroded,” he said.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said leaving the EU would have “a profound effect” on Wales.
“We cannot be a silent bystander or spectator,” she said.
She added: “We must use whatever leverage we have to create our own voice and to carve out a distinct position if Wales is to have its own future, distinct and different from that of England.”
But South Wales East AM Steffan Lewis said he believed Wales and the other devolved administrations would be “little more than consultees” in the process.
The Plaid Cymru AM also called on AMs of all political colours to join together to put pressure on the UK Government to involve Wales in the negotiations.
“Whether we were Leave or Remain last year, and whether we are nationalists or unionists today, we all promised the people of Wales that we would not allow this country to be worse off either financially or in terms of powers,” he said.
Conservative South Wales Central AM David Melding also spoke during the debate, saying he was optimistic about the outcome of the process.
He said: “This is not about preserving Britain.
“It is about rebuilding Britain, and that work will require great vision, generosity, and an awareness that we now need a new relationship between the UK’s nations.”