Mark Drakeford AM – (Chair) Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government
Professor Richard B. Davies – Vice-Chancellor, Swansea University
Dr Hywel Ceri Jones – Former EU Funding Ambassador
David Jones OBE – Principal and Chief Executive, Coleg Cambria
Sir Emyr Jones Parry – President, Aberystwyth University
Michael Plaut – Chair, CBI Wales
William Powell – Chair of the Cross-Party Group on Europe in the Fourth Assembly
Kevin Roberts – Chair of Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC)
Martin Mansfield – General Secretary, Wales TUC
Ruth Marks MBE – Chief Executive, Wales Council for Voluntary Action
Rachel Sharp – Chief Executive, Wildlife Trusts Wales
Councillor Anthony Taylor – WLGA – Deputy Spokesperson, Economic Development, Europe and Energy
*A small number of Welsh Government officials were also present in support.
Kevin Crofton – President, SPTS Technologies Ltd
Jill Evans MEP – Member of the European Parliament
Nathan Gill AM/MEP – Member of the European Parliament
Lord Kinnock – Former Vice-President of the European Commission
Professor Colin Riordan – President and Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University
Tom Jones OBE – European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
Dr Kay Swinburne MEP – Member of the European Parliament
Derek Vaughan MEP – Member of the European Parliament
The meeting was also attended by Ken Skates AM, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport.
Baroness Eluned Morgan AM, has now stepped down from the group to take up her new role as the Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning.
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance welcomed the EAG members to this seventh meeting. He also welcomed Councillor Anthony Taylor, Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) – Deputy Spokesperson, Economic Development, Europe and Energy, who attended in Councillor Rob Stewart’s absence.
The Cabinet Secretary outlined the agenda and explained that the meeting would include a discussion on the future role of the European Advisory Group and 3 presentations: Natural Resources Management post Brexit, Future of the Environment in Wales, and the Welsh Economy post-Brexit.
2. European Advisory Group stocktake
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance updated the group on the written responses and comments received from the members and agreed to forward them to the group. The ensuing discussion and main conclusions identified so far included:
- members taking on more public role and also keen to utilise their own contacts for the wider benefit
- Welsh Government ‘to open and lead the debate in Wales’ and to engage more with the Welsh public
- engagement with the public through the establishment of citizens panels and conference events across Wales focussing on urban, rural, economic, sectoral and social conditions
- opportunity to comment on draft Welsh Government policy papers and to consult with their members on the documents
- lobbying on behalf of Welsh Government positions could be undertaken on an individual or sub-group basis on specific policy areas
- publishing of meeting papers
- more joint working with Welsh organisations and policy leads in the Welsh Government
- working with Scotland, Northern Ireland and the National Assembly EAAL Committee
- current representation is appropriate, but will keep under review.
3. Update on developments
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance updated the group on developments both at the EU and UK level and within Wales since the last meeting. Areas covered included:
- the Prime Minister’s visit to Brussels
- regulatory alignment for Northern Ireland with Ireland, the DUP intervention, and indications that such regulatory alignment would be UK-wide
- first ever Emergency question in the Assembly on Irish Border deal
- David Davis and the 58 sectoral analyses looking at the impact of leaving the European Union
- deadline for UK to come up with a deal and final text to be submitted to the EU 27 members ahead of the European Council on 14 December
- the upcoming meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee on European negotiation (JMC(EN)) on 12 December.
Other updates included the Cabinet Secretary for Finance’s attendance at the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) events in Helsinki and Cardiff and the resulting signing of the Cardiff Declaration; his attendance before the External Affairs and Additional Legislation (EAAL) Committee; and his visit to the Irish Association Contemporary European Studies (IACES) Biennial conference in Dublin.
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance then invited comments from the group.
Discussions covered a wide range of issues including:
- the importance of accessing Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ programmes
- resolving the issues regarding the Irish border
- consequences of ‘no deal’ would be disastrous for both Wales and UK and our priority is to obtain the best possible deal for Wales
- EU citizenship and the importance of maintaining their rights
- possibility of an extended transition period and its effect on the Welsh public
- concerns over ambiguity of terms used and the need for clarification
- the need for the UK to have a sound negotiating position that represents the needs of Wales.
4. Natural resources management post-Brexit
Rhodri Asby, Deputy Director, Environment and Rural Affairs EU Exit and Strategy Unit, Welsh Government gave a presentation covering natural resources management post-Brexit. He provided an update on the key priorities taking place across the portfolio with regards to exiting the European Union and the activities undertaken to date.
Future of the environment in Wales
Rachel Sharp, Chief Executive, Wildlife Trusts Wales gave a presentation on the future of the environment in Wales and provided an overview of the sector and the imminent pressures facing Wales with regard to Brexit. She also offered some solutions for the various sectors for consideration by the group and a shared vision for the future after Brexit.
The group discussion centred on:
- use of twitter for any sector updates, visions or actions with the wider Welsh public
- wider sharing of information with organisations and partner organisations
- success of Growth Deals in Wales
- necessity to pursue and maintain relationships with UK sector officials
- Paris Climate Change Conference 2015 and repercussions after Brexit
- CAP following Brexit.
5. Welsh economy post-Brexit
Ken Skates AM, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport gave a presentation on the Welsh Economy post Brexit and the need to manage the uncertainty created by Brexit. He outlined the extensive work the Welsh Government has done to develop an understanding of what the impacts might be and what businesses are doing to prepare. He also outlined the European Action Plan that will set out the Welsh Government agenda for an economy that boosts Wales’ wealth and well-being, now and into the future.
Group discussion followed on:
- managing businesses’ perception that Brexit has already happened
- concerns over imports as well as exports and the affect sterling has on trade
- concerns over loss of labour, highly skilled workers and technical expertise after Brexit
- possibility of large banks leaving the UK
- on a positive note, HE sector has an excellent global reputation to build on
- forging closer links with HE and businesses
- utilisation of supply chains in Wales and making better use of our labour market
- planning for infrastructure/ports and visa arrangements, involving UK contributions.
6. Next steps and any other business
The group will continue to look at ways of working collaboratively with the Scottish First Minister’s Standing Council on Europe.
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance informed the Group that the next Welsh Government policy document in the series Regional Investment in Wales after Brexit would be launched on 14 December and he thanked the group for their input to the document.
It was agreed that the group would discuss Higher Education in a future European Advisory Group agenda.
A list of planned meeting dates for 2018 had been provided to the Group at the last meeting. The next meeting would be held on 8 February in the afternoon.