Attendees

  • Carwyn Jones AM – First Minister of Wales
  • 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
  • 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
  • Sir Emyr Jones Parry – President, Aberystwyth University
  • Tom Jones OBE – European Economic and Social Committee
  • Lord Kinnock – Former Vice-President of the European Commission
  • Martin Mansfield – General Secretary, Wales TUC
  • 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
  • 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

  • Dr Hywel Ceri Jones – Former EU Funding Ambassador
  • Ruth Marks MBE – Chief Executive, Wales Council for Voluntary Action
  • Dr Kay Swinburne MEP – Member of the European Parliament

1. Introduction

The First Minister opened the meeting and welcomed members of the new European Advisory Group (EAG). He outlined the Welsh Government’s key priorities in relation to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, which he had announced very shortly after the referendum result. He went on to set out some of the Welsh Government’s main actions since the referendum including engagement with stakeholders, opening dialogue with the UK government, internal policy and analytical work, and establishing a Cabinet Sub-Committee on European Transition. He outlined the valuable role which the EAG could play, not so much in terms of scrutiny, but in offering advice and helping the Welsh Government assess options ahead of EU exit negotiations, drawing upon the considerable expertise of its members.

The First Minister then invited comments from the group. The discussion covered a wide range of issues including, but not limited to:

  • the importance of active engagement with the UK government
  • the different approaches to the EU Single Market (and the need for clarity in the language used about this)
  • potential replacement support for EU funding
  • the Welsh Government’s determination to defend workers’ rights and high quality employment
  • the importance of considering scenario planning for different eventual outcomes to the Brexit negotiations
  • the potential for individual members to draw on their own networks to help Wales’ voice be heard and to build relationships.

2. Terms of reference

The First Minister handed over to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government. The Cabinet Secretary introduced the draft terms of reference and outlined that, whilst there is a good deal of public interest in the group, in order to allow a full and frank exchange of views the intention was for the group’s discussions to be kept in confidence. He went on to say, though, that he understood members would want to discuss their work on the group externally at a general, non-attributable and headline level and he did not envisage that this would inhibit the work of the group. He explained that a few members of the group had produced short papers which would be circulated to members along with a high level meeting note, in advance of the note being published.

Some members suggested that the terms of reference should include explicit mention of EAG’s role not just in considering opportunities and risks involved with Brexit but also at how Wales could be shaped and developed post-Brexit. Updated terms of reference will be included with the papers for the next meeting.

3. Update on developments

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government talked through some of the main points of the accompanying paper which covered developments both at a UK level and within Wales. In particular, the Welsh Government was now gaining some clarity on how the UK government intended to engage with the devolved governments on work following the EU referendum.

The subsequent discussion considered whether Welsh interests were sufficiently represented in Whitehall Departments, with a strong view that effective relationships at an official level were needed, as well as strong political dialogue. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government said that the Prime Minister had committed to the full involvement of the devolved administrations.

The importance of the European Commission to the negotiations was discussed. Though there were a range of views on the UK’s departure among EU member states, the Commission was expected to take a robust line. The Cabinet Secretary reminded the meeting that the UK would continue to be a member of the EU for at least 2 more years and in that time Welsh Government Ministers would take every opportunity to engage with the Commission and other EU institutions and countries.

The Cabinet Secretary agreed that strong networks with Whitehall, the EU Commission and Member States will be vital in allowing Wales to make its voice heard during the coming negotiations. Given the reluctance of the Commission to engage in discussions on any aspect of the UK’s leaving arrangements until Article 50 has been invoked, he made the point that each member of the group has significant networks and contacts across Europe, and also in Whitehall, which could be invaluable in promoting Wales’ interests in the coming months.

4. Discussion paper

The paper for this item gave an overview of a range of key strategic issues for Wales arising from the future withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. The paper considered cross-cutting challenges and risks, potential opportunities, and how best we could secure a continued positive relationship for Wales with other countries across Europe and beyond.

There was a discussion of the type of access to the Single Market that might be possible for Wales. Several members commented that freedom of movement of people was likely to be interlinked with the level of access to the Single Market. It was recognised that a significant proportion of the public felt strongly about freedom of movement, which was one of the issues in the debate leading up to the EU Referendum.

A view was expressed that some members of the public might be expecting a “Brexit premium” because of arguments put forward by the leave campaigners in the run up to the referendum. It would be an important task to explore any such opportunities fully. It would also be important to assess the possible economic impact of various models of future engagement with the Single Market. More widely, there was general agreement that work on assessing the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union on Wales as a whole was a priority and should cover the full range of likely scenarios. At the same time research should be carried out on which EU programmes and institutions, such as Erasmus and the European Investment Bank, might be available to Wales after the UK has left the European Union.

5. Next meeting

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government introduced Professor Steve Martin of the Cardiff Business School and Director of the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW.) The intention was that the next meeting of the European Advisory Group – which is expected to take place around mid November – would begin with smaller, break out groups for more concentrated discussion supported by PPIW. The discussions in these groups could then be shared collectively with all members in the second part of the meeting. The themes of the break out groups would be based on key issues developed from the discussions at this meeting.