Welsh First Minister admits 'falling out' with Boris Johnson over handling of coronavirus pandemic

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said ’s refusal to restrict travel for people in coronavirus hotspots showed the Conservative Party’s “tin ear” to Wales.

The Welsh Labour leader said that issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic had also “thrown a spotlight” on to the relationship between the the UK and Welsh governments.

Speaking about his government’s response to the pandemic at the online launch of the Welsh Labour Together event on Thursday, Mr Drakeford said: “It’s thrown a spotlight on to our relationship with the UK government, which as I’ve said many times, have not been what they need to be.

“There has been no regular, reliable rhythm, and when we have had it, it has not always been satisfactory.

“This week you will have seen that we’ve had quite a falling out with the Prime Minister over his refusal to act to protect low-incidence areas of coronavirus from visitors from high-incidence areas.

“We’ve had to use our own powers to fill that gap. I think that has been very strongly supported by people in Wales, and it just demonstrates the tin ear the Tories have for what matters most to people who live in Wales.”

Mr Drakeford also said he believed the UK Government’s controversial Internal Market Bill would be blocked in the House of Lords, but that Mr Johnson’s pursuit of it threatened the break-up of the union.

“The current UK Prime Minister is a real threat to the United Kingdom. And the bill he is promoting is in the vanguard of that threat,” he said

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart has said a proposed ban on people entering Wales from UK coronavirus hotspots “risks stirring division and confusion”.

In a letter written to Mark Drakeford asking for clarification about the restrictions, Mr Hart also expressed his concern over the First Minister’s comments that Welsh residents “would be on the lookout” for visitors breaching them.

Mr Hart wrote: “I remain worried that, without rapid explanation, this approach risks stirring division and confusion in Wales. We both know that, in reality, communities in Wales are as hard-hit by as English, Scottish and Northern Irish communities.

“Your recent comment about residents in West Wales being ‘on the lookout for people who shouldn’t be in those areas’ is an example of exactly the situation we should be trying to avoid.”

Mr Hart also asked for a number of clarifications, including how the decision was made to restrict travel, legal guidance on how it is lawful, how enforcement will be managed, and whether university students would be allowed to travel home.

West MP Jacob Rees Mogg has proclaimed proposals to create restrictions on the border between England and Wales are ‘unconstitutional’.

Speaking in the Commons as the Leader of the House, the North East Somerset MP said the decision would ‘place the police in an invidious position’.

Much of the south of Wales has already been on more stringent lockdown rules than England for a month or more, with police mounting checkpoints to advise people about travelling between local authority areas, for example between Newport and Cardiff.

The new rules the Welsh Government said they are implementing this week would effectively ban anyone from Manchester, Liverpool, much of the north of England and London – with the news today that the capital looks set to go into the more serious Tier 2 setting – from crossing into Wales.

But the move was criticised by Jacob Rees Mogg, whose North East Somerset constituency on the edge of Bristol is as little as 20 miles from the Welsh border.

He was answering a question from Tory MP Alicia Kearns, who said: “Can my right honourable friend confirm that it would be illegal for the Welsh Labour Government to introduce an intensive border within the UK to restrict movement between England and Wales?”

Mr Rees Mogg replied: “What would you expect of a hard-left Labour Government?

“The approach to putting a border between England and Wales is unconstitutional and will place the police in an invidious position considering that they serve the whole of the United Kingdom.

“We are one single United Kingdom and we should not have… borders between different parts of the United Kingdom.

“And I’m afraid that is what you get when you vote for socialists,” he added.

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