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Brexit Party: Nigel Farage says four AMs to form group Brexit Party: Nigel Farage says four AMs to form group
(about 1 hour later)
Four former UKIP AMs have joined Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, announcing plans to form an assembly group.Four former UKIP AMs have joined Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, announcing plans to form an assembly group.
Mr Farage declared Mark Reckless as group leader on a visit to Cardiff on Wednesday.Mr Farage declared Mark Reckless as group leader on a visit to Cardiff on Wednesday.
Others are Mandy Jones, Caroline Jones and David Rowlands. The plans are subject to approval - some Plaid Cymru and Labour AMs want them stopped. The planned group, which includes Mandy Jones, Caroline Jones and David Rowlands, is subject to assembly approval. Some Plaid Cymru and Labour AMs want it stopped.
Mr Farage said: "The leavers in Wales are all coming back together again, no more divided tribe." Mr Farage said: "The leavers in Wales are all coming back together again."
"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," he added. "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," he added.
Mr Farage, who is holding a rally in Merthyr Tydfil, launched the party last month for the European elections on 23 May. Mr Farage, who also held a rally in Merthyr Tydfil on Wednesday, launched the party last month for the European elections on 23 May.
A Brexit Party spokesman said the move followed a meeting last month between the four and Mr Farage at a rally in Newport.
UKIP confirmed Mr Rowlands had resigned from the party - meaning it no longer has a Senedd group and will have to lose staff.UKIP confirmed Mr Rowlands had resigned from the party - meaning it no longer has a Senedd group and will have to lose staff.
Mr Reckless said: "Brexit is being blocked." He said the new group "supporting the Brexit Party in everything that they are doing to protect our democracy and to ensure that Brexit is delivered". Mr Reckless said: "Brexit is being blocked."
Mr Reckless left the assembly Tory group on Tuesday ahead of the announcement. He said he had believed Prime Minister Theresa May "when she said she triggered article 50, we were going to leave the EU on the 29 March this year, with or without a deal". The new group is "supporting the Brexit Party in everything that they are doing to protect our democracy and to ensure that Brexit is delivered", he added.
"Unfortunately she's broken her word," he told Gareth Lewis on BBC Radio Wales. Mr Reckless had been a UKIP AM from 2016 to 2017, when he joined the Tory group. He left it on Tuesday ahead of the announcement.
Former UKIP assembly leader Neil Hamilton has said all four should resign. Mr Reckless said he would "love" to hold a by-election but was unable to do so under the system he was elected under. He told Gareth Lewis on BBC Radio Wales he had believed Prime Minister Theresa May when she said "we were going to leave the EU on the 29 March this year, with or without a deal".
Mr Farage said he had "hand-picked" who he wanted to join the Brexit Party. "There is a renewed sense of purpose and unity amongst these people," he said. "We've shown in the first five weeks we are professional, we are organised." "Unfortunately she's broken her word," he said.
Mr Farage promised the group would have its own "radical" policies - the party does not yet have any, beyond wanting to leave the EU. Former UKIP assembly leader Neil Hamilton called for all four to resign. Mr Reckless said he would "love" to hold a by-election but was unable to do so under the system he was elected under.
The leader, who had criticised Mr Reckless when he left UKIP in 2017, admitted to "one or two cross words with all of them" over the years. "That's all forgotten now", he said. The announcement follows years of turmoil in UKIP - it entered the assembly with seven AMs, but now just has two.
Mr Farage said he appointed the group leader - an election between the members had not taken place, but he said the others in the group supported it. Mr Farage, who had criticised Mark Reckless when he left UKIP, admitted to "one or two cross words with all of them" over the years. "That's all forgotten now", he said.
Who are they? He said he had "hand-picked" who he wanted to join the Brexit Party. "There is a renewed sense of purpose and unity amongst these people," he said
Mr Rowlands told BBC Wales he had become "increasingly disappointed" with the way that UKIP was heading. He had disagreed abolishing the assembly - a key policy of UKIP assembly leader Gareth Bennett. The party leader, who appointed Mr Reckless, promised the group would have its own "radical" policies - the party does not yet have any, beyond wanting to leave the EU.
'Frustration and anger' at Merthyr Tydfil rally
By James Williams, BBC Wales Brexit correspondent
Despite the best efforts of anti-Brexit protestors who blocked the road, around 600 or so people decided to spend a beautiful sunny evening at a political event in a car park.
It was a smaller and more subdued gathering than the Brexit Party's rally in Newport a fortnight ago.
But what was remarkable was that, for the vast majority of people I spoke to, this was their first time at a political gathering.
Frustration and anger with the Brexit delay had driven them to attend.
Some were Labour voters, most were frustrated Tories, but they were all united in their belief that the two-party system is a busted flush.
At the very least, the people here tonight are betting on the Brexit Party to fix things.
David Rowlands told BBC Wales he had become "increasingly disappointed" with the way that UKIP was heading. He had disagreed abolishing the assembly - a key policy of UKIP assembly leader Gareth Bennett.
The defining moment, he said, was the "interference" by UKIP HQ in the Newport West by-election, deciding to "displace the candidate that the South Wales East region had selected", Stan Edwards, and replace him with AM Neil Hamilton.The defining moment, he said, was the "interference" by UKIP HQ in the Newport West by-election, deciding to "displace the candidate that the South Wales East region had selected", Stan Edwards, and replace him with AM Neil Hamilton.
He said it was a "particular slight" that he was not asked to stand.He said it was a "particular slight" that he was not asked to stand.
"David was so annoyed about interference in candidate selection that he joined a party whose candidates are all selected by one man," Mr Bennett said in response."David was so annoyed about interference in candidate selection that he joined a party whose candidates are all selected by one man," Mr Bennett said in response.
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. The group of four wrote to the presiding officer Elin Jones 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 was being considered by the presiding officer, Elin Jones. An assembly commission spokeswoman confirmed that the request was being considered by Ms Jones.
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. 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 an assembly election from being recognised.
Alun Davies, Blaenau Gwent Labour AM, told the Senedd there were AMs on both sides of the chamber who were "deeply disturbed at the undermining of our democracy by events today".Alun Davies, Blaenau Gwent Labour AM, told the Senedd there were AMs 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.""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."
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.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.
A Plaid Cymru spokesman 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".
"This so-called new political group has no democratic mandate in Wales," the Labour group said.
UKIP was elected to the assembly in 2016 with seven AMs - after three changes of leader and five defections, it now has just two.
Mr Bennett, the 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.
AnalysisAnalysis
By BBC Wales political editor Felicity EvansBy BBC Wales political editor Felicity Evans
This is a major coup for Nigel Farage and his new Brexit Party, just over a week before polling day in the European Parliament elections.This 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.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.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.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.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.Its new leader, Mark Drakeford, will not want to see another party come out on top in his first electoral test.
A Plaid Cymru spokesman 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".
"This is a group which stands for nothing more than its own short-term, narrow self-interest," the Labour group said.
Mr Bennett, the 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.
Who are the group?
The European Parliament elections in WalesThe European Parliament elections in Wales
There are eight parties fighting for four Welsh seats in the European elections on 23 May.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.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.You can find a list of candidates here.