Rt. Hon. Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister
I attended the 35th meeting of the British-Irish Council virtually on 11 June, which was hosted by the Northern Ireland Executive.
The (now former) First Minister of Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Arlene Foster MLA, and the deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill MLA, chaired the meeting. Other attendees, who attended either in person or virtually, included the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP; the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP; An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD; An Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar TD; Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney TD; the First Minister of Scotland, the Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP; and the Chief Ministers of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
It remains a source of disappointment the Prime Minister did not attend the meeting.
The theme of the meeting was priorities for Covid-19 recovery and the Council had a constructive and informative discussion on the topic. We discussed the potentially long-lasting impacts of Covid-19, and reflected on sustainable approaches to recovery.
I highlighted that although cases of Covid-19 in Wales are the lowest in the UK and vaccination rates are the highest, cases are increasing and that the delta variant is spreading across Wales. The evidence suggests the third wave has started in Wales and the immediate challenge is to hold the ground we have gained rather than to add to risks.
Covid-19 has shone a cruel light on our unequal society – the impacts of the pandemic have been felt most strongly in those communities which are least likely to cope. The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act commits us to creating a more equal Wales and it is through this lens, which the recovery must be viewed.
The discussion on recent political developments included discussion on the EU-UK relationship.
In contributing to the debate, I said that the Welsh Government had a shared statement and action plan for the next five years with the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney TD. This shared statement covers six key priority areas of co-operation including climate change, renewable energy and research, and is just one example of collective action. The British-Irish Council offers opportunities for such collective action, to share experience and ideas; and
Collective action continues to be important for tackling climate change, delivering green growth and for recovery from biodiversity loss.
Each Member Administration actively contributed to these valuable and important discussions. A joint Communiqué was issued after the meeting, which is available at:
I thanked the First Minister of Northern Ireland and the Chief Minister of the Isle of Man, who had both announced that they would be stepping down from their respective positions, for their contributions to the British-Irish Council and our work together on shared agendas.
The next Council Summit will be hosted by the Welsh Government.