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Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister

First published:
24 December 2020
Last updated:

Today, four and a half years since the referendum, a deal on the future relationship between the UK and the EU has been agreed.

We have not seen the text of the agreement and clearly will need to analyse and scrutinise the detail before we are able to take a considered view.

But it is already clear that this is not the sort of deal which the Welsh Government wanted: one which would have protected jobs, the economy and the rights of our citizens.

Nevertheless, we have consistently and vigorously argued that securing a deal should be the absolute priority for both parties. At every point in the long saga since the referendum we have argued for the position which maintains the most cordial and substantial relationship with the EU, and this is no exception:  faced by a binary choice of this deal or no deal, this deal, despite its very serious shortcomings, is the better outcome.

The deal offers something to build on in future negotiations as it becomes still clearer that this current package does not provide a solid basis on which to build future economic stability.

Nonetheless, at the end of an exhausting and destabilising process on which vast sums of taxpayers’ money and the United Kingdom’s political capital has been expended, the UK Government has settled for a deal, which is significantly worse in economic terms than almost all of the post-Brexit options for the future relationship with the EU which were open to us. 

In particular, at a time when our economy is weakened and our society is stressed by the coronavirus pandemic, it is astonishing that the UK Government has continued to prioritise illusory demonstrations of the UK’s ‘sovereignty’ over the daily wellbeing of its people – the jobs and livelihoods of citizens  and the competitiveness of our businesses.

The result of this deal will undoubtedly be an economy that is smaller than it would have been, meaning fewer jobs, lower wages, less exports, more red tape for businesses, less cooperation with the EU on security and poorer communities and households across Wales.

The Welsh Government has not had any meaningful involvement in developing the negotiating strategy or the negotiations themselves and our priorities on behalf of the people of Wales have been largely ignored.  We have therefore been clear that the responsibility for the outcome which these talks have delivered rests squarely with the UK Government. We will hold them to this over the months and years to come.

In the short term, our priority will be to continue to put all our efforts into preparing for the inevitable disruption which will occur, as a consequence of the UK Government’s political choices, after the 1 January, as well as supporting businesses in responding to the implication of our new trading arrangements from January and into the future.  We will continue to analyse the detail of the deal to understand better what it means for Wales.

Despite our deep political disagreements with the UK Government over the predicament into which they have cast the economy of the United Kingdom, we shall - as we have sought to do throughout - co-operate fully with them on the practical steps of preparing the country for the end of transition, and we call on them to respond similarly.

We understand that the deal will be implemented on a provisional basis by the EU. In our view, this should also provide time for Parliament to scrutinise it fully rather than to push through the final implementing legislation in the last few days of the year.  Nevertheless, a plenary debate will be scheduled at the earliest opportunity for Members to discuss the deal and the implications for Wales. 

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.