- Mark Drakeford AM – (Chair) Cabinet Secretary for Finance
- Rebecca Evans AM – Minister for Housing and Regeneration
- Kirsty Williams AM – Cabinet Secretary for Education
- Baroness Ilora Finlay of Llandaff – House of Lords
- Kevin Crofton – President, SPTS Technologies Ltd
- Professor Colin Riordan – President and Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University
- Dr Hywel Ceri Jones – Former EU Funding Ambassador
- William Powell – Chair of the Cross-Party Group on Europe in the Fourth Assembly
- Ruth Marks MBE – Chief Executive, Wales Council for Voluntary Action
- Sir Emyr Jones Parry – President, Aberystwyth University
- Alison Lea-Wilson – Co-founder Halen Môn/Anglesey Sea Salt
- Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd – Former Lord Chief Justice
- Rachel Sharp – Chief Executive, Wildlife Trusts Wales
- Councillor Rob Stewart – WLGA/Leader of Swansea City Council
- Julie Morgan AM – Chair of the All-Wales Programme Monitoring Committee
- Dr Chris Jones – Chair of Health Education and Improvement Wales
- Dr Jo Hunt – Wales Governance Centre, Cardiff University
- Alec Don – CEO, Milford Haven Port Authority
*A small number of Welsh Government officials were also present in support.
- 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
- Tom Jones OBE – European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
- Professor Richard B. Davies – Vice-Chancellor, Swansea University
- David Jones OBE – Principal and Chief Executive, Coleg Cambria
- Michael Plaut – Chair, CBI Wales
- Kevin Roberts – Chair of Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC)
- Martin Mansfield – General Secretary, Wales TUC
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance opened the meeting and welcomed the EAG members to this 11th meeting. He also welcomed Rebecca Evans AM Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and Alison Lea-Wilson, Halen Môn, who have been invited to join the group.
The Cabinet Secretary outlined the agenda and explained that the meeting would include:
- presentations by Rebecca Evans AM, Minister for Housing and Regeneration
- Baroness Ilora Finlay of Llandaff, House of Lords – a view from the UK Parliament
- the Cabinet Secretary for Education on education post-Brexit
- Alec Don, Chief Executive Milford Haven Port Authority – Brexit: a ports perspective.
2. EU negotiations and Ministerial Forum
The Minister for Housing and Regeneration provided an update on the progress of the Ministerial Forum, outlining both the purpose of the forum and in particular her role. The minister detailed the 4 meetings that have been held to date and the topics discussed at each of the meetings. She also explained how the forum is helping to progress UK – EU negotiations.
Group discussion centred on:
- offers from EAG members to provide further evidence of issues in their sectors if required for future Ministerial Forum meetings
- suggestions for agenda items for future Ministerial Forum meetings
- meetings with EAG members to better understand their individual issues and concerns
- importance of an assessment to monitor the impact of Brexit across all sectors
- imperative that the devolved administrations are included and represent Wales’ concerns at the Ministerial Forum meetings
- the importance of avoiding a ‘no deal’ scenario at all costs
- the terms and conditions of a transition period
- future relationship with the European Investment Bank.
3. Update on developments
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance updated the group on developments at a UK level and within Wales. The 3 main aspects included the UK government’s Chequers meeting and the publication of the UK government’s White Paper; a possible No Deal’ scenario and our efforts around operational readiness to mitigate likely impacts; and Migration.
Areas covered included:
- concerns by the state of the UK-EU negotiations at this crucial time in the Brexit calendar
- acknowledgement that the UK’s position should evolve further to avoid a ‘no deal’ scenario
- as the timetable slips, call for the UK to request that the EU offers more flexibility regarding timings to secure a mutually beneficial deal between the UK and the EU
- acknowledgement that the Chequers deal leaves important issues unresolved, particularly the Single Market, Customs Union and the Irish border issues
- real world no longer separates goods and services
- recognition that despite our strong conviction to strike a satisfactory deal, we have a duty to prepare for a ‘worse case’ scenario
- civil contingency partners’ collaboration
- consider social cohesion and potential impact on policing
- our aim of getting the best possible - or least damaging - outcome to the Brexit negotiations for Wales
- the recognition of the positive contribution EU citizens make to daily life in Wales; from academic staff in our universities, individuals in the Welsh NHS, and the significant proportion of EU nationals working in our tourism industry and manufacturing sectors
- the final report published by the Migration Advisory Committee – EEA: Migration in the UK, and its consideration of a visa regime, targets, skilled verses unskilled labour and moving to a system in which all migration is managed with no preferential treatment to EU citizens.
Group discussion centred on:
- the Prime Minister’s ability to obtain agreement from her own party to take forward the Chequers deal
- next steps for the Welsh Government if agreement is not forthcoming
- negotiations between the UK government and the EU and the devolved administrations’ involvement in the process
- discussion about the Preparedness work the Welsh Government is currently undertaking
- possibility for extending the current Brexit deadline
- the importance of EU nationals to the Welsh economy and the need to retain the EU workforce that play an important role in key sectors.
An ‘Update on developments’ paper is attached at Annex 1.
4. A view from the UK Parliament
Baroness Ilora Finlay, House of Lords delivered a presentation – a view from the UK Parliament, giving an insight to the Parliament’s objective view of the negotiations and what is required by both the UK and the EU to arrive at a mutually acceptable position.
5. Education post-Brexit
The Cabinet Secretary for Education gave a presentation – Education post-Brexit, summarising the issues facing both Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) sectors. She outlined the extensive work the Welsh Government has done to develop an understanding of what the impacts might be and what we are doing to prepare. She reiterated the importance of her portfolio and its contribution to building the capacity and resilience of individuals and organisations dealing with the effects of Brexit.
Professor Colin Riordan, Cardiff University spoke about how the potential of a ‘no deal’ scenario would impact the Higher Education institutions.
The discussion was also informed by a paper on the Issues for Further Education shared with members on behalf of David Jones OBE, Coleg Cambria in his absence.
Group discussion centred on:
- the significant contribution from European funds supporting skills programmes
- potential replacement support for European funding and ensuring that Wales is no worse off as a result of Brexit
- action needed to address skills shortages in specific sectors - farming, tourism, social care
- access to EU programmes – Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 – at a time when the EU is increasing the budget available for these programmes
- consideration of assessing the impact of losing access to European funds on Welsh universities
- the need to continue working closely with the sectors to identify the main issues
- implications of what third country status means for future networks and partnerships
- maintain the HE sector’s ability to compete in a globally competitive sector
- on a positive note, HE sector has an excellent global reputation to build on
- promotion of our educational product to the world via for example Global Wales and maintaining high levels of EU student recruitment
- continuing the strong relationship with the HE Brexit Working Group and other UK groups
- consider the schools likely to be caught in the crossfire with potential impact on procurement, social cohesion and wellbeing of students
- contingency planning in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario.
6. Brexit: A ports perspective
Alec Don, Chief Executive of Milford Haven Port Authority gave a presentation – Brexit: A ports perspective, offering an insight to the role of the port and the level of international trade that travels through the port. He confirmed ports account for 95% of goods traded in and out of the country and are a vital part of the national infrastructure and play a key role in securing a buoyant economy. The port promotes shipping as the mode of transport offering the least overall environmental impact.
Group discussion centred on:
- ports as land-sea interface
- approach to fisheries, quotas, and fishing vessels landing at Welsh ports
- the impact Brexit would have on the ports with regards to tariffs and visas
- the concept of a free port trading zone, and in competition with others, ensuring ports are attractive to business and investment
- planning for infrastructure/ports underpinned by sustainable development
- the role of ports as key drivers of economic prosperity in Wales and the conditions needed to generate further business growth following Brexit
- the importance of the sector to Wales and its ability to foster new trading relationships and manufacturing-led growth in the future to strengthen Wales’ economy.
7. Next steps and any other business
The Cabinet Secretary informed members that the date of the next meeting has been changed from 15th to the 22nd of November.