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Attendees

  • Mark Drakeford AM – (Chair) Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government
  • Councillor Phil Bale – Leader of City of Cardiff Council
  • Kevin Crofton – President, SPTS Technologies Ltd
  • Dr Hywel Ceri Jones – Former EU Funding Ambassador
  • Professor Richard B. Davies – Vice-Chancellor, Swansea University
  • Jill Evans MEP – Member of the European Parliament
  • Nathan Gill AM/MEP – Member of the European Parliament
  • David Jones OBE – Principal and Chief Executive, Coleg Cambria
  • Tom Jones OBE – European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
  • Martin Mansfield – General Secretary, Wales TUC
  • Ruth Marks MBE – Chief Executive, Wales Council for Voluntary Action
  • Baroness Eluned Morgan AM – Former Member of the European Parliament
  • William Powell – Chair of the Cross Party Group on Europe in the Fourth Assembly
  • Professor Colin Riordan – President and Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University
  • Kevin Roberts – Chair of the Agriculture Partnership Board
  • Rachel Sharp – Chef Executive, Wildlife Trusts Wales
  • Dr Kay Swinburne MEP – Member of the European Parliament
  • Derek Vaughan MEP – Member of the European Parliament
  • Emma Watkins – Director, CBI Wales

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

Apologies

  • Sir Emyr Jones Parry President, Aberystwyth University
  • Lord Kinnock Former Vice-President of the European Commission

The meeting was also attended by Steve Martin, Dan Bristow, Ian Jones and Andrew Connell, Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW), who provided analytical support to the European Advisory Group.

1. Introduction

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government opened the meeting and welcomed the EAG members to this second meeting. He also introduced Rachel Sharp, Chief Executive of Wildlife Trusts Wales, who had been invited to join the group. The Cabinet Secretary outlined the agenda and explained that for part of the meeting members would break into 3 groups for more concentrated discussion on key issues developed from the discussions at the first meeting. Group conveners would then be asked to share feedback collectively with all the members in the full meeting.

2. Update on developments

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government updated the group on developments both at a UK level and within Wales. The 3 main aspects included the plenary meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee held in October and chaired by the Prime Minister, the Joint Ministerial Committee for EU negotiations and the Article 50 legal proceedings.

The Cabinet Secretary reaffirmed that the UK was expected to continue to be a member of the EU for at least 2 more years and in that time Welsh Government Ministers would continue to take every opportunity to engage with the UK officials, Ministers, other devolved governments, the Commission and other EU institutions and countries.

3. Economic analysis of implications of Brexit

The Welsh Government’s Chief Economist, Jonathan Price, delivered a presentation titled ‘Leaving the EU – Economic Consequences for Wales’, which was based on the best available assessments of the macro-economic situation for Wales and the UK. His overview focused on long term consequences, short term consequences, Welsh exporting sectors and some potential opportunities for discussion by the Group. Overall, the majority economic opinion was that there were significant risks to economic performance in the medium-term. There were also some possible opportunities, for example from currency fluctuations and potentially regulatory change, though the latter was subject to wider considerations.

Members made the following main additional points in discussion:

  • Wider poverty effects needed to be considered as part of macro-economic analysis
  • The fragility of the SME sector should be noted
  • More precise information on imports and exports would be helpful
  • Wider global economic changes are hugely significant need to be considered; ideally as part of future economic scenario planning.

4. Discussion groups

The members divided into 3 discussion groups, convened by 3 of the EAG members: Brexit Premium – Professor Colin Riordan, Cardiff University; Migration – Ruth Marks, WCVA; and Wales and the World – Tom Jones, EESC. The themes for the groups arose from discussion at the inaugural meeting of the EAG in September. For the Brexit Premium and Migration groups, PPIW had prepared the main discussion documents and assisted with the discussion groups. WEFO had prepared papers and supported similarly for the Wales and the World Group.

5. Feedback from discussion groups

The following main points made in each group were reported back to the full group.

Brexit Premium

  • There would need to be an update of the Barnett formula as part of replacing EU funding streams.
  • There should be no unpicking of Wales’ current devolution powers.
  • Advantages could be greatest in areas where significant specific regulation was needed, such as agriculture; but this should not lead to a low wage sector.
  • Opportunities should be sought to better channel support to the objectives of the Environment Act and the Well-being of Future Generations Act; and also to support city region approaches.
  • Controls on migration should continue to support the best qualified people coming to Wales for business, research and higher education.

Migration

  • Terms and relevant regulatory frameworks should be clearly defined and explained; all possible options for the situation after EU Exit, within such frameworks, should be clearly identified. This would aid consideration of costs and benefits of options.
  • More and better information of the needs of different business sectors, and public service sectors, is needed.
  • The importance of migration to higher education is also large; and the mutual benefits of student migration through ERASMUS are significant.
  • It might be helpful to understand better the prevailing social attitudes to migration behind people voting to Leave.
  • The global context of increased migration for various reasons needs to be fully recognised, in both economic and human rights terms.
  • There should be recognition of the balance between rights and obligations of migrant workers.

Wales and the World

  • Building on work done for this meeting, WG should prepare a full list of the networks and funding programmes that Wales might be able to access after EU Exit. This should include a full analysis of the costs and benefits in each case, including recognition of the respective benefits of UK or Welsh level involvement.
  • Existing arrangements such as university strategic partnerships, and town twinning should be included.
  • The potential benefits to many organisations in Wales (public, private and third sector) should be identified; WG could take on a co-ordinating role to develop a “Team Wales” coherent strategy for this, possibly with a 3 to 5 year timeframe.
  • The geo-political situation has an impact at the Welsh level too.
  • Language learning was as important as ever, including non-European languages, such as Chinese.
  • Welsh success globally is fundamentally linked to successful trade.
  • The British Council could have a role.
  • Existing WG offices in Brussels and the rest of the world should be used to fullest effect.

6. Discussion of forward work programmes

The Cabinet Secretary invited suggestions from the EAG members following the meeting for future agenda items, particularly in relation to possible breakout groups to cover specific key priority issues. A list of provisional dates was provided to the group, up to and including December 2017. The next meeting will be held in early February; subjects for the break out groups will take account of key issues developed from the issues arising at this meeting, and from issues needing to be considered for discussion with UK government.

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