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Attendees

  • Mark Drakeford AM – (Chair) Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government
  • 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
  • Martin Mansfield – General Secretary, Wales TUC
  • Ruth Marks MBE – Chief Executive, Wales Council for Voluntary Action
  • Tim Peppin – WLGA (in place of Councillor Rob Stewart
  • Kevin Crofton – President, SPTS Technologies Ltd
  • Professor Colin Riordan – President and Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University
  • Tom Jones OBE – European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
  • Julie Morgan AM – Chair of the All-Wales Programme Monitoring Committee

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

Apologies

  • Jill Evans MEP – Member of the European Parliament
  • Nathan Gill MEP – Member of the European Parliament
  • Lord Kinnock – Former Vice-President of the European Commission
  • Dr Kay Swinburne MEP – Member of the European Parliament
  • Derek Vaughan MEP – Member of the European Parliament
  • Professor Richard B. Davies – Vice-Chancellor, Swansea University
  • Kevin Roberts – Chair of Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC)
  • Rachel Sharp – Chief Executive, Wildlife Trusts Wales

1. Introduction

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance opened the meeting and welcomed the EAG members to this 8th meeting. He also introduced Julie Morgan AM, Chair of the All-Wales Programme Monitoring Committee, who had been invited to join the group.

The Cabinet Secretary outlined the agenda and explained that the meeting would include a discussion on the Phase One deal; the EU Withdrawal Bill; the future role of the European Advisory Group; 2 discussion groups on the European Transition Fund; and the Welsh Government Trade Policy document.

2. 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:

  • launch of the Welsh Government Trade Policy document on 2 February
  • meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee on European Negotiation (JMC(EN)) on 12 December
  • launch of the Welsh Government policy document on Regional Investment in Wales after Brexit on 14 December
  • tri-lateral with Brandon Lewis (as the then UK Migration Minister)
  • hosting a joint House of Lords briefing event with the Scottish Government on the interaction of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and devolution
  • First Minister meeting with David Lidington, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State for Wales
  • Cabinet Secretary for Finance’s attendance at the Killarney Economic Conference and before the External Affairs and Additional Legislation (EAAL) Committee.

3. Discussion of Phase One deal

Dr Hywel Ceri Jones led on this item. The main points expressed in discussion were:

  • disappointment that the amendments published by the Welsh and Scottish Government’s have not been accepted by the UK government at Commons Committee Stage or at Report Stage
  • welcome for the commitment made by the Prime Minister in mid-January to bring forward amendments to clause 11, but recognition of the need for a firm commitment that respects the devolution settlement
  • importance of opinion from many organisations across Wales informing the Welsh Government position to feed into the debate to give Wales a strong voice
  • consideration of preparing a short and clear statement setting out the Welsh Government position and requirements to present to the UK government
  • imperative that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and rights of citizens protected
  • importance of the whole of the UK remaining fully aligned to the Single Market and Customs Union
  • the requirement for formulation of legally binding text around Customs Union, particularly during the Transition phase.

4. Update on the EU Withdrawal Bill

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance provided an update on activities to date. In conjunction with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government has published a series of amendments to ensure that the devolution settlement is respected. We welcomed the commitment by the Prime Minister to bring forward amendments to clause 11 in the House of Lords, but until the amendments are accepted we will not be seeking the National Assembly’s consent to the Bill. To this end, we will continue discussion with the UK government. Welsh Government has prepared a continuity Bill that could be introduced to the National Assembly if required. Along with the Scottish Government, we hosted a joint House of Lords briefing event for peers on the interaction of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and devolution, which was very well attended. We will continue to review the situation.

5. Welsh Government trade policy document

The Cabinet Secretary noted that the latest in our series of Brexit-related policy position papers - Trade Policy: The Issues for Wales had been published on 2 February. The paper, supported by an economic impact analysis from Cardiff Business School, argues the Welsh economy is best protected by retaining full access to the European Single Market and membership of a customs union.

The document was very well received by the EAG members and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance then invited comments from the Group. Discussions covered a wide range of issues including:

  • important that the needs of the different business sectors and public services and the avoidance of tariffs are highlighted as 2 of the main priorities
  • consequences of ‘no deal’ would be disastrous for both Wales and UK and our priority is to obtain the best possible deal for Wales
  • the importance of the Single Market to Wales, both in terms of exports and inward investment
  • transitional arrangements to be put in place in order to negotiate a new long-term relationship with the EU.
  • ability to access the EU Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ programmes
  • requirement of the UK to have a sound negotiating position that represents the needs of Wales.

6. European Transition Fund

The members divided into 2 discussion groups, with convenors David Jones and William Powell leading the groups. Officials had prepared a paper to support the group discussions.

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

  • this fund was welcomed as a positive development in helping organisations in Wales prepare for transition
  • in principle, the fund should not be used to replace monies that remain the responsibility of the UK HMG government
  • need to determine whether the Fund should be aimed more at smaller or larger projects
  • Welsh Government should seek to minimise bureaucracy, while ensuring effective monitoring and management of the fund is in place
  • utilising the expertise and experience of the Chair of All-Wales Programme Monitoring Committee Chair regarding the management of the fund
  • consideration of opportunities for match funding to supplement the European Transition Fund
  • there are likely to be a range of projects where this fund could add value, varying from low risk advisory and implementation services through to more innovative initiatives
  • need to ensure that the principles of the Wellbeing Act are incorporated in all funded projects.

7. European Advisory Group stocktake

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance thanked the members for their input to the review of the European Advisory Group and concluded the following actions would follow:

  • Members individually taking on a more public role if they wished to do so, and utilising their own contacts for the wider benefit where relevant
  • EAG activities to be publicised more widely using the various communication channels
  • 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 by individual(s) on specific policy areas
  • publication of meeting papers after each meeting
  • more joint working with Welsh organisations and policy leads in the Welsh Government
  • pro-actively working with the Devolved Administrations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the National Assembly EAAL Committee
  • current representation is largely appropriate, but will keep under review.

8. Next steps and any other business

A list of planned meeting dates for 2018 had been provided to the Group last December. The next meeting will be held on 26 April in the afternoon and will include a presentation from Elmar Brok MEP (Germany).

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