Carwyn Jones, First Minister
Today the Welsh Government, with the Conference for Peripheral and Maritime Regions (CPMR), organised a meeting of European regional and local leaders to discuss ways in which European regions can continue to co-operate after Brexit and, together, manage the impacts of Brexit being felt across Europe.
This event culminated in the signing of the Cardiff Declaration; this was ratified by the CPMR’s General Assembly, which represents over 160 European regions, and was signed today by 20 European regional and local authority leaders from Scotland, France, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands.
I am clear that although we respect the outcome of the Referendum, and we are leaving the European Union, this does not mean that we are leaving Europe. We are an outward-looking country and we will not turn our back on friends and partners with whom we have achieved so much together.
In our conference, we reflected on the ways in which we have, as European regions, worked together successfully – for example, collaborative research between our universities through the Horizon 2020 programme, sharing experience in health policy through European networks, one of which the Welsh Government currently chairs, and the territorial co-operation (Interreg) programmes which enable our regions to develop joint projects focused on economic growth. Our discussions also considered the ways in which Brexit is affecting regions across the EU, in particular those in Ireland.
The Declaration is an important expression not only of the collective desire of regions across Europe to continue to co-operate once the UK has left the EU, but also of solidarity and support for Wales and other UK regions as we face the undeniable challenges of Brexit.
The Declaration also contains a range of shared priorities in regard to Brexit, such as the UK’s future participation in the Single Market and respect for devolution – all of which are consistent with the priorities for Wales that I set out in “Securing Wales’ Future”.
By setting out our collective concerns and priorities the Cardiff Declaration can, we hope, be a useful way of raising these issues with our European Institutions, in particular through the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions (CoR) – especially as many CPMR members are also members of the CoR.
The CoR has meetings in the next few months with Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, and with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, where we expect the Cardiff Declaration will be highlighted.
At the event we called for swift agreement on the first phase of negotiations over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, to avoid the catastrophic scenario of no deal, which is in nobody’s interest. This agreement would pave the way to a new relationship with our European partners, one that should be based on securing prosperity and fairness for all.