The United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May had planned to say that both sides had accepted the result of the Welsh assembly referendum in 1997. But she had voted against the creation of the institution following the devolution referendum.
Labour and Plaid Cymru politicians accused her of hypocrisy – and the line was dropped from the speech. Instead, she said the result was accepted by parliament.
Mrs May warned of “paralysis in Parliament” if the deal is rejected and said trust in politics would suffer “catastrophic harm” if the UK did not leave the EU.
Members of the press had been told Mrs May, in Stoke-on-Trent, would say: “When the people of Wales voted by a margin of 0.3%, on a turnout of just over 50%, to endorse the creation of the Welsh Assembly, that result was accepted by both sides and the popular legitimacy of that institution has never seriously been questioned.”
But when she gave the speech, she said that the result “was accepted by parliament”. Mrs May had, in 1997 after the referendum, voted against the legislation that enacted the assembly, together with other Conservatives.
Tory MP Nigel Evans said during that debate that it would have been better if the percentage majority in favour “had been in double figures”. “That would have settled the issue once and for all, but it did not and it remains unsettled.”
The Conservative manifesto of 2005 also called for a further referendum on the assembly on expanding its powers, keeping it as it was or abolishing it.
Before the event Professor Roger Scully of Cardiff University said the result was actually won on a margin of 0.6%, rather than 0.3% – although the figure remained in the revised speech.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said Rhodri Morgan had “reacted to the closeness of the result by reaching out to those opposed to the creation of the National Assembly and worked to establish its legitimacy in their eyes”.
“The success of that approach by Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones was borne out in the emphatic majority to extend the National Assembly’s powers in 2010,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine a more different approach to the winner-takes-all strategy adopted by Mrs May towards the EU referendum.”