Nigel Farage (third left) welcomes the AMs who want to join his party
Nigel Farage has announced that four AMs are planning to form a Brexit Party group in the Welsh Assembly.He announced Mark Reckless as the group leader, on a visit to Cardiff Bay.Other members include Mandy Jones, Caroline Jones and David Rowlands. UKIP confirmed Mr Rowlands had resigned from its group in the Senedd – meaning the party no longer has a Senedd group.Mr Farage said: “The leavers in Wales are all coming back together again, no more divided tribe. “I’m very pleased as leader of the Brexit Party to welcome four members of the Welsh Assembly who will now re-designate as of this afternoon as Brexit Party members”. Mr Farage launched the party last month for the European elections on 23 May.Mark Reckless told a press conference on the Senedd steps: “Brexit is being blocked and the Brexit Party group in the Welsh Assembly from today will be supporting Nigel Farage, supporting the Brexit Party in everything that they are doing to protect our democracy and to ensure that Brexit is delivered.”
‘We wish to form a Brexit Party political group, with immediate effect’, the letter said
The Brexit Party has no policies beyond its vow to fight for Brexit. Mr Farage promised “radical change policies”.He said: “The principles upon which all four have been elected, they are going to stick to.”The leader admitted to “one or two cross words with all of them” over the years – “that’s all forgotten now”, he said.Mr Farage said he appointed Mr Reckless to be leader – an election between the members had not taken place. But he said the other members support it.David Rowlands said it was a “very difficult” decision for him to quit UKIP but he said he had been “discontented” with what was happening with UKIP for sometime.He accused it of going about the Newport by-election in an “undemocratic way”. “I joined UKIP at the beginning because I believed in coming out of Europe,” he said. “I believe that the Brexit Party is the best vehicle that I can join in order to realise those ambitions.”
David Rowlands (l) has resigned from the UKIP group
The group of four wrote to the presiding officer to request they form a Brexit Party group “with immediate effect”, with Mr Reckless as leader and Mr Rowlands resigning from UKIP.An assembly commission spokeswoman confirmed that the request is being considered.Presiding Officer Elin Jones must be satisfied the requirements of being a group under assembly rules are met before it can be officially recognised as a one.Some Labour and Plaid Cymru AMs are considering trying to amend the rules, known as standing orders, to prevent groups representing parties who did not stand in the assembly election from being recognised.’Chancers’Alun Davies, Blaenau Gwent Labour AM, told the Senedd there were members on both sides of the chamber who were “deeply disturbed at the undermining of our democracy by events today”.”These chancers did not stand for election under any party label they are using today,” he said.”They are using this in order to access public resources and public money without standing for election and seeking the consent of anybody or any constituency or region in any part of Wales.”He asked the presiding officer to use “some discretion” to consider the matter over a “period of time” to allow AMs to consider their own thoughts and responses.
Gareth Bennett no longer has a UKIP assembly group to lead
A Plaid Cymru spokesperson said the Brexit Party group had “no democratic mandate and they should not be permitted to form a group nor given access to public resources and funding in the Senedd.””To permit them to form a group would make a mockery of our democratic system in Wales.”UKIP was elected to the assembly in 2016 with seven AMs – after three changes of leader and five defections it now has just two.Gareth Bennett, UKIP AM who led the party in the assembly when it was a group, said Mr Rowlands departure from UKIP will “inevitably lead to job losses for our hard working support staff, something which David was well aware of before reaching his decision”.”I am sorry and disappointed that David has decided to take this step,” he said.
Analysis By BBC Wales political editor Felicity EvansThis is a major coup for Nigel Farage and his new Brexit Party, just over a week before polling day in the European Parliament elections. Assuming existing assembly rules are followed, the Brexit Party will have achieved recognition and representation in one of the UK’s parliaments without even facing an election. While this is a boost for Mr Farage’s new party, it’s a disaster for his old one. The defection of David Rowlands has torpedoed UKIP.Wales was UKIP’s last bastion in terms of significant electoral representation. They’re now left with two AMs and a loss of resources and status within the Welsh Assembly. Today’s announcement raises the stakes for Welsh Labour too – at stake is a century of Labour dominance in Welsh elections. Its new leader, Mark Drakeford, will not want to see another party come out on top in his first electoral test.
The European Parliament elections in Wales
There are eight parties fighting for four Welsh seats in the European elections on 23 May.Welsh Labour, the Welsh Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Green Party are joined by Change UK and the Brexit Party.You can find a list of candidates here.