Jeremy Miles MS, Counsel General and Minister for European Transition
In accordance with the inter-institutional relations agreement, I can report and update Members of the Senedd that I attended a Ministerial meeting to discuss progress on the Intergovernmental Relations Review, which took place virtually on 12 March. The meeting took place almost exactly three years since the Review was commissioned by the Joint Ministerial Committee (Plenary).
The meeting was also attended by Ministers Gordon Lyons MLA and Declan Kearney MLA of the Northern Ireland Executive Office; Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs, Michael Russell MSP for the Scottish Government; with Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP on behalf of the UK Government in the chair.
The UK Government has today published a document providing the latest picture of progress on the Intergovernmental Relations Review as at today, with square brackets noting particular areas for further discussion. I can confirm that the document sets out an accurate view of progress from the Welsh Government’s perspective.
At the same time, it is disappointing that after three years of discussion, we still have no overall agreement, while the tone of inter-governmental relations has deteriorated due largely to a series of aggressive intrusions by the UK Government into areas of devolved competence.
In this context, it is deeply disappointing and frustrating that the UK Government has only today, the day of publication, shared with us the Dunlop Review, to which we contributed. We also note the UK Government’s account of intergovernmental relations activity in its transparency report, but do not believe this reflects the poor quality of engagement for which they are responsible.
The draft proposals set out in the Intergovernmental Relations Review document flow from the principles for joint working published in July 2019, in the spirit of “maintaining positive and constructive relations, based on mutual respect for the responsibilities of governments across the UK and their shared role in the governance of the UK.”
We acknowledge the progress made towards achieving some of our key priorities, notably a reformed Dispute Avoidance and Resolution process and an independent secretariat.
Much of this is the result of years of proactive and positive engagement by the Welsh Government, involving intensive negotiation and compromise.
The document requires further negotiation to protect Wales’ interests, to urgently complete the terms of the operation of the finance committee and its role in disputes; and establish effective machinery for international engagement – including the governance of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the EU. I hope that it can be built upon between the governments after the Senedd and Scottish Parliament elections.
However, alongside continued efforts to reach agreement on the outstanding issues and draw the Review to a conclusion, the UK Government’s actions will need to live up to the words on the page. This is a test that they are currently failing.
Recent announcements by the UK Government have suggested a determination to undermine and marginalise the role of both the devolved Governments and legislatures and to put in place UK Government structures designed directly to challenge, duplicate and compete with those of the Welsh Government in areas of devolved competence. These developments jar with the UK Government’s professed anxiousness to improve the operation of intergovernmental relations and to secure the future of the Union.
We need to reset the relationship based on the Welsh Government’s vision of a reformed and strengthened United Kingdom, in which all the governments work together for mutual benefit and treat each other with respect.