Attendees

  • Huw Irranca-Davies AM – Chair
  • Jeremy Miles AM – Counsel General and Brexit Minister
  • Eluned Morgan AM – Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language
  • Shan Morgan – Welsh Government Permanent Secretary
  • David Jones OBE – Principal and Chief Executive, Coleg Cambria
  • Michael Plaut – Former Chair, CBI Wales
  • Sir Emyr Jones Parry – Former President, Aberystwyth University
  • Rachel Sharp – Chief Executive, Wildlife Trusts Wales
  • Dr Chris Jones – Chair of Health Education and Improvement Wales
  • Professor Jo Hunt – Wales Governance Centre, Cardiff University
  • Professor Colin Riordan – President and Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University
  • Alec Don – Former CEO, Milford Haven Port Authority
  • Baroness Ilora Finlay of Llandaff – House of Lords
  • Ruth Marks MBE – Chief Executive, WCVA
  • William Powell – Chair of the Cross-Party Group on Europe in the Fourth Assembly
  • Tom Jones OBE – European Economic and Social Committee
  • Dr Hywel Ceri Jones – Former EU Funding Ambassador
  • Tim Peppin – WLGA

*A small number of Welsh Government officials were also present in support.

Apologies

  • Rebecca Evans – Minister for Finance and Trefnydd
  • Kevin Roberts – Chair of Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC)
  • Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd – Former Lord Chief Justice
  • Martin Mansfield – General Secretary, Wales TUC
  • Kevin Crofton – Llywydd, SPTS Technologies Ltd Councillor
  • Rob Stewart – WLGA/Leader of Swansea City Council
  • Alison Lea-Wilson MBE – Co-founder Halen Môn/Anglesey Sea Salt
  • Jill Evans MEP – Member of the European Parliament
  • Nathan Gill MEP – Member of the European Parliament
  • Dr Kay Swinburne MEP – Member of the European Parliament
  • Derek Vaughan MEP – Member of the European Parliament

1. Introduction

Huw Irranca-Davies AM, Chair of the European Advisory Group opened the meeting and welcomed the EAG members to this 17th meeting.

The Chair outlined the agenda and explained that the meeting would include:

  • an update on developments (Counsel General and Brexit Minister)
  • an item on International Strategy and Trade Policy (Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language)
  • an item on finance to be led by the Counsel General and Brexit Minister, as the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd was unable to attend.

2. Update on developments

The Chair invited the Counsel General and Brexit Minister to update the Group on significant developments including the latest EU/UK position; Preparedness; Brexit Legislation Stocktake; and Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) Review / Frameworks.

Areas covered included:

  • on 4 June the Counsel General made a Ministerial statement including the announcement that the Welsh Government were calling for a referendum with the intention of campaigning to remain in the EU; and in a National Assembly debate on 5 June that any deal put forward would need a referendum to endorse it and in such a campaign the Welsh Government would campaign to remain
  • the First Minister had written to Welsh MPs on 26 June advocating legislation to avoid a no deal but also to compel the UK government to prepare a referendum bill
  • concerns about the tight deadline after a new PM is confirmed and the possibility that the new PM would demand that the EU 27 re-open negotiations of the Withdrawal Agreement, which EU leaders at the European Council on 20 June reaffirmed would not be open for renegotiation
  • increasingly likely that we would face a choice of either a no deal Brexit or remaining in the EU
  • Welsh Government would redouble efforts to persuade the UK government, Parliament and public – that Wales/UK cannot leave the EU without a new mandate
  • Counsel General informed the Group that a package of support had been announced to help EU citizens prepare for exit and to continue to live and work in Wales, and emphasised the need to increase awareness of citizens’ rights to help them remain here. The Brexit Minister called on the help of the Group to get this message across
  • a significant amount of work had been undertaken by all UK administrations to amend EU-derived law so that it functions properly at the point of exit, in the event of a no deal outcome
  • little progress had been made on the outcomes of the IGR review commissioned 15 months ago.

Group discussion centred on:

  • concerns that Wales has a looming manpower crisis within the NHS unless we offer support to migrant workers
  • requests to provide supplementary support to EU citizens working in the NHS and their families, to raise awareness that they are entitled to be recompensed for their medical costs
  • calls for NHS Wales to set up a reporting system for individuals to use to flag up potential problems for the NHS workforce
  • ongoing concerns around the IGR review and how the UK administrations are to work together moving forward
  • concerns about the management of and continued lack of information from the UK government on the Shared Prosperity Fund
  • the work of the Regional Investment Steering Group on replacement EU funds in Wales
  • important scrutiny role for NAW committees in relation to WG and UKG.

Group discussion centred on:

  • the importance of our presence in London as part of our international strategy
  • importance of getting our messages across to others in a crowded marketplace
  • requests to build and maintain links with networks, regions and countries and look outward
  • consider how civil society partners can continue to be active through existing networks and to establish new connections
  • concerns that we belong to a series of networks, and the need to prioritise as these become unsustainable
  • to continue our strong links with all of the EU institutions
  • concerns over Wales’ connectivity and that Welsh Government need to make it easier for businesses to trade in Wales
  • a request for an update on Wales in facts and figures.

3. International strategy and trade policy

The Chair invited the Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language to update the Group on Trade Policy and International Strategy. On Trade policy, main aspects covered included the current Brexit context and trade; working with the Department of International Trade; and new trade deals.

Areas covered included:

  • the need to focus on trade policy as a key issue for Wales
  • the UK government’s independent trade policy outside of the EU will pose both threats and possibly opportunities for Wales
  • the need to prepare for all eventualities including one where we are faced with a hard Brexit and a Prime Minister who wants to quickly start trade negotiations with new countries
  • the need to have a strong voice in any future trade negotiations, both to protect the interests of Welsh businesses and consumers but also to safeguard the devolution settlement
  • although International trade is not explicitly devolved it overlaps with many areas of devolved competence – including economic development, agriculture, fisheries, skills, and the environment
  • Welsh Government have now built more regular and constructive engagement with DIT
  • UK government has committed to establishing a Joint Ministerial Forum on international trade to bring together all the devolved governments
  • current inter-governmental machinery is not fit for purpose and that officials are working on a formal agreement with the UK government on how WG can be involved in trade negotiations in the future
  • new trade relationships should be seen as a complement to rather than a substitute for our relationship with the EU. With 61% of Welsh goods exports going to the EU, this should remain our clear focus
  • the need to be ready to engage with the UK government on whatever its future trade policy and be prepared to defend Welsh interests should these negotiations get underway.

The Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language invited the members to express their views and opinions on trade policy.

Group discussion centred on:

  • importance of working closely together with the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on Welsh agriculture and rural economy, non-tariff barriers, data and workforce such as veterinarians, in the event of a no deal
  • ongoing concerns over Wales’ relationship with London with regards to negotiating tariffs and non-tariffs and Wales having no negotiating powers to trade with Ireland should the UK leave the EU without a deal
  • the significance of the Irish Consulate in Cardiff, Wales
  • the UK government have an understanding that Wales, in terms of trade needs to be at the negotiation table
  • the need to promote Wales in a globally competitive world
  • the increased need to build relationships with countries and their businesses by using people we already have on the ground
  • that the Welsh Government maintains a network of overseas offices to advance Wales’ international interests.

The minister explained that the work undertaken on trade policy, and the wider context of Brexit, has supported her work to develop a new International Strategy. The main aspects covered in the International Strategy update included the context; priorities and ambitions; and timetable.

  • Wales to reaffirm its relationships with global partners, countries and regions to raise Wales’ profile
  • Wales starting the next phase of its international journey from a strong base. Recent years have seen record levels of employment, high levels of inward investment and a growth in the value of Welsh exports
  • Wales has seen sporting excellence in recent years which is helping to promote Wales on an international stage
  • global trends and challenges that provide the context - trade wars and rise in protectionism
  • it is important we continue to look outwards to Europe and beyond, and work to solidify existing trade routes and establish new opportunities for Welsh businesses while also encouraging inward investment and visitors to Wales
  • the development of a new international strategy for Wales that will seek to give direction and answer key questions like - how should Wales position itself and what are our priorities
  • the need for the strategy to be recognised as providing the strategic direction for everyone who is engaged in the international space, bringing everyone together, ensuring that we are all pulling in the same direction and working together to maximise our efforts
  • engagement undertaken so far has identified 3 key goals to deliver via the strategy:
    • to raise the profile of Wales internationally
    • to grow the prosperity of Wales through its exports and inward investment
    • to showcase Wales as a globally responsible nation
  • the strategy will be underpinned by Wales’ values as underlined in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and its commitment to the UN’s sustainable development goals and to human rights
  • International Strategy will set out Wales’ priorities for the economy, education, health, culture and sport as well as how we will work with partners to fulfil our commitments to global responsibility through initiatives such as our Wales for Africa programme
  • other markets, such as Asia, Commonwealth countries and North America, also offer opportunities to grow the Welsh economy and forge partnerships
  • a draft document would be published for public consultation shortly.

The Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language invited members to express their views and opinions on the International Strategy.

Group discussion centred on: 

  • the importance of our presence in London as part of our international strategy
  • importance of getting our messages across to others in a crowded marketplace
  • requests to build and maintain links with networks, regions and countries and look outward
  • consider how civil society partners can continue to be active through existing networks and to establish new connections
  • concerns that we belong to a series of networks, and the need to prioritise as these become unsustainable
  • to continue our strong links with all of the EU institutions
  • concerns over Wales’ connectivity and that Welsh Government need to make it easier for businesses to trade in Wales
  • a request for an update on Wales in facts and figures.

4. Finance

The Chair invited the Counsel General and Brexit Minister to update the Group on Finance on the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd behalf.

The group received an update on the latest developments in regards to the replacement of EU Funds in Wales post Brexit.

Areas covered included:

  • there continues to be uncertainty around replacement funding for EU Structural Funds and the Shared Prosperity Fund
  • the Brexit Minister reaffirmed Welsh Government position calling for replacement funding to be repatriated to the Welsh Government and for ‘not a penny less’ than we would have received had we remained within the EU – not a penny less, not a power lost
  • there are similar uncertainties and ambiguities in the UK government’s position in regards to replacing funding for CAP and the European Investment Bank in Wales
  • Welsh Government continues to press the UK government for clarity and assurance around when and how these funds will be replaced in Wales
  • despite this, the UK government has now said details of their proposal to replace EU structural funds will not happen until “next year” (Kwasi Kwarteng in the House of Commons on 27 June) and it is still not conferred how CAP will be replaced post 2020
  • against this difficult backdrop the Welsh Government is doing all it can to ensure we are ready to administer and deploy replacement funding to meet the needs of the people of Wales from the point Brexit happens
  • we are working with key stakeholders across Wales, and the OECD, to develop our own approach to regional economic funding post Brexit and it is only this approach that the Welsh Government will support
  • WG announcement of a £85 million capital investment available to help stimulate the economy in event of no deal Brexit;  
  • also considering a range of new proposals for the European Transition Fund, supporting the third sector among others, with a focus on delivery and supporting network and relationship building.

Group discussion centred on:

  • how important these funds are in Wales to communities, businesses, and the public sector in Wales
  • what additional revenues might be raised in Wales and the UK post Brexit
  • the importance of the EIB’s convening power and concern with decline in EIB investment since referendum and start of the article 50 process
  • concern Brexit might trigger a recession
  • concerns about how Wales can continue to benefit from Horizon 2020 or any replacement scheme
  • the need for UK government to share information with Welsh Government, on how replacement EU Funds will be managed, particularly farm payments due in December
  • request to share with the members a one page script for EAG members on Shared Prosperity Fund.

5. Next steps and any other business

The Chair summed up the meeting and confirmed:

  • he would arrange for a few WG headline messages to be circulated to EAG members promptly for further dissemination to networks and partners (annexed)
  • the next EAG meeting was scheduled for 3 October.