Jeremy Miles MS, Counsel General and Minister for European Transition
On Monday the Prime Minister met with the President of the European Council Charles Michel, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli following four rounds of negotiations on the UK/EU future relationship to take stock of the progress made. In advance of the meeting, it was clear that there remain fundamental differences between the UK Government and the EU on issues such as the level playing field, fisheries, security and governance.
Given these fundamental differences and the wholly unforeseeable crisis as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic the First Minister wrote jointly with the First Minister of Scotland calling for the negotiations to be paused and the transition period extended. Despite these realities the UK Government took the decision not to seek an extension to the transition period. This decision was made prior to the stock take meeting and without the necessary level of discussion across the governments of the UK. We maintain this is a reckless decision and only serves to increase the likelihood of leaving the transition period without a comprehensive agreement in place. This would be deeply damaging to the economy, risking jobs and livelihoods citizens across the UK.
Following the stock take meeting it was agreed that over the coming weeks talks between the UK Government and the EU will intensify with the hope of concluding and ratifying a deal in the next six months. While we welcome this development, it is clear that both parties will need to find common ground to bridge the differences that remain. As we set out in our policy paper, ‘The future UK/EU relationship: negotiating priorities for Wales’ we believe it is possible to create a future relationship founded on the Political Declaration agreed by the Prime Minister with the EU in October, that prioritises the fullest access to EU markets and maintains the cooperation with the EU in important areas including security and participation in EU programmes which foster cooperation and collaboration between EU Member-States and other non-EU nations.
The EU has highlighted their concern that the UK Government has moved away from the basis of an agreement that the Political Declaration provided for. We believe an agreement can only be reached by building on areas of convergence and by showing a willingness to compromise.
We have always looked to work constructively with the UK Government on the future relationship negotiations but we remain deeply frustrated by the lack of any meaningful engagement. We have sought, and will continue to seek, opportunities to influence the UK Government to protect Wales’ interests, while accepting their mandate to deliver a future relationship modelled on the Political Declaration. As the negotiation rounds have progressed I have set out, in a series of letters, more detail on the Welsh Government negotiation priorities across those work streams where we have a direct interest.
As the talks enter the next critical phase I have written jointly with the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs in the Scottish Government to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster calling for a redoubling of efforts by the UK Government to work with the Devolved Governments. We once again call for the UK Government to honour the terms of reference of the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) which commits all our Governments to work together to agree a UK approach to the negotiations and to ensure that agreed outcomes are secured from the negotiations. It is only by working in collaboration with the Devolved Governments that the UK Government can provide the reassurances to the EU that the future relationship agreed can be implemented across all parts of the UK.
I have attached a copy of this letter to this statement as issued.